Office of University Communications & Marketing

One-Man Stage Drama EDDIE Recounts True-Life Story of ‘The Friendship That Changed History’
Sep. 17, 2013



Marvin Starkman as Eddie JacobsonBy Terry Pace, Communications and Marketing

FLORENCE, Ala. – The Shoals Interfaith Council and the University of North Alabama Department of History and Political Science will present the moving and enlightening play Eddie – the story of “The Friendship That Changed History” – at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, in the Performance Center at the Guillot University Center on the UNA campus.

The historical drama– written by Bob Feinberg and Marvin Starkman, and directed by Max Daniels – features Starkman (pictured at right) in a one-man performance as Eddie Jacobson, an Army buddy, former business partner and lifelong friend of President Harry S. Truman. Jacobson was instrumental in helping convince Truman to support a United Nations resolution establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

“My main contribution to developing this project has resulted from my first learning of this extraordinary friendship and its historical impact after reading David McCullough’s magnificent biography Truman,” Starkman explained. “My other major involvement was in researching their story at the Truman Library in Missouri, interviewing the Jacobson daughters and others, and locating and reading so many books, articles and oral histories that had usable and interesting information and photos.”

Eddie recounts the fascinating true-life story of Jacobson’s seemingly impossible mission and the deep, long-lasting friendship between these two men. Feinberg and Starkman worked closely on developing a compelling, historically authentic stage drama for Starkman to enact.

“It was hard to resist Marvin's enthusiasm for dramatizing this unlikely friendship and its unexpected historical impact,” Feinberg remarked. “The deeper I dug into his background material, the more it validated his belief in the story’s theatrical potential. It was one of those ‘only in America’ partnerships that transcended the stereotypes and prejudices of their era. Since both men had uncommon strength of character complemented by a not-so-gentle sense of humor, we felt audiences would relate well to them. And, of course, the sudden threat to their thirty-odd-year friendship and the confrontation it precipitated added dramatic value to the story. Truth can be stronger than fiction, not merely stranger.”

A pre-show lecture, “1947-48: The Domestic and International Political Moment Between Hot War and Cold War,” will be presented by Dr. Tom Osborne, a professor emeritus of history at UNA and member of the Shoals Interfaith Council. (The lecture will begin at 2 p.m. and be followed by the performance.) Osborne believes the story of Jacobson and Truman resonates on a number of meaningful levels.

“We all wonder whether one person can make a difference in the world,” Osborne observed. “Large impersonal forces and institutions often seem to propel things in ways that are out of our control. This play is about how the personal friendship of two men made a significant difference in the world, and so it offers hope for us that perhaps all is not determined by vast social and economic forces that sweep us along like flotsam and jetsam.”

The Eddie play also offers illuminating historical context for world-changing events that have occurred over the past six decades.

“The particular change involved in this story is the relationship between Israel and the United States,” Osborne explained. “Arguably, the existence of Israel and the special connection between the U.S. and Israel are at the heart of most of the world dynamic of the last half century. One has only to try to imagine world diplomacy without the U.S.-Israel relationship. There would probably be no significant American involvement in the Middle East, no Gulf Wars, no inflation from the Arab oil boycott, no global terrorism, no rising Islamist extremism and on and on. The world, not just the U.S., has been preoccupied with Palestine/Israel for 60 years, and without the personal connection between Harry Truman and Eddie Jacobson there might never have been an Israel.”

In addition to its educational and historical value, Osborne believes the story of Eddie and Truman ideally suits the mission of the Interfaith Council.

“We are trying to present programs that speak to the needs of people from different religious traditions to understand one another and work together for the common good,” Osborne noted. “This is a story that puts the spotlight on the lifelong friendship between the son of a Baptist farmer from Missouri and the son of a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania. In the form of a story it tells us something about overcoming anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

“Personally, as a student of the history of ideas about race, I see overcoming anti-Semitism in America as a first step leading to the civil-rights movement for African-Americans and Native Americans, the movement for women's equality and even the contemporary movement for equal treatment of same-sex orientation,” he added. “The immediate post-World War II years were the period in which the process began, due to the discrediting of anti-Semitism as the Nazis' pathological anti-Semitism required Americans to decide ‘what we were fighting for.’ Then at the end of the war, there was the discovery of the death camps and the shocking realization of the logical consequences of racism.”

A special exhibit of photos and historical documents will also be on display in the UNA Loft on the day of the performance. The exhibit – currently on display in the colonnade of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library – reinforces the historical importance of the story dramatized in Eddie.

“It seems to us there's a message in this story that is particularly relevant in 2013,” Feinberg believes. “Washington, D.C., in 1948 was as deeply polarized as it is today. Yet Truman, against the advice of his State Department, and despite mounting pressure from Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, stood firm in doing what his sense of justice and his knowledge of history told him was the right thing. Rarely, if ever, do any of today's elected officials show this kind of courage. Perhaps it's time for us to be reminded of what we deserve – and should expect – from the people we put in office.”   

Admission is free to the performance, the pre-show lecture and the exhibit. For details, call 256-765-4651 or visit the website www.eddietheplay.com.

A high-resolution photo of actor/playwright Marvin Starkman as Eddie Jacobson is available for media use on the UNA Gallery at: http://www.unalionsden.com/archive/album.php?album=UNA%20News%20Releases&year=2013