3: Radio play excerpt, Norman Rosten’s “If Not Higher,” 1945.
Norman Rosten, who would later be named the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn, wrote this dramatization of Peretz’s story for the religious radio program The Eternal Light, a co-production of the NBC Radio Network and the Jewish Theological Seminary that was broadcast from 1944 to 1989. This excerpt invents a character and a dialogue that do not appear in Peretz’s story, as the Litvak has an argument with his wife before starting off on his nighttime mission of reconnaissance to the rabbi’s home.
Suggested Activity: Before playing the excerpt for students, ask them to conceive of their own conversations for the Litvak and his wife to have on the eve of his espionage. In pairs, they can then write and perform (or improvise) short dialogues for the class.
Now play the excerpt. Ask students to compare it to their own dialogues. Which do they prefer — their own version, or Rosten’s? Is the radio scene as they expected it would be, or does it hold any surprises? (Note that the play goes farther than Peretz in referencing the potential homoerotic undertones of the Litvak spending the night in the rabbi’s bedroom — perhaps unusual for 1945). Does the radio scene give them any new insights into the protagonist, or reinforce any they had before? What do they think of the wife? Might the playwright have handled this invented character differently to add richness or meaning to the story?
Source: Norman Rosten, “If Not Higher,” from The Eternal Light (New York: NBC Radio Network and Jewish Theological Seminary, September 16, 1945), no. 47.