Leopoldstadt’s David Krumholtz Shines Light on Ugly Antisemitism


Jack Pasquale

The Echo recently had the pleasure of spending time with Hollywood film and TV star David Krumholtz, who is currently featured in the critically acclaimed Broadway play Leoopoldstadt. We hope you enjoy the interview that follows below and highly recommend this timely, must see show.


On February 21, 2023, the opening night of the new Broadway show Parade was met with neo-nazi protests. Yes that’s 2023. Reports of anti-semitic violence, harassment, vandalism and terror have become increasingly frequent over the past year. Destructive, hurtful anti-semitic comments from NBA stars, top Hollywood actors, popular musicians, politicians and everyday people have been well documented. 


These are not isolated incidents but rather reflect a surge in Antisemitism. According to recent surveys from the American Jewish Committee, more than 80% of Jewish adults in the U.S. say Antisemitism has increased in the last five years. 69% of American Jewish adults said they were the target of or had seen Antisemitic remarks and threats online in the prior year. 


There is a lot of discussion around the root cause but one thing is certain – more education is urgently needed to avoid repeating the atrocities of the past. 


The incredibly talented cast of the Broadway hit Leopoldstadt stepped into this void, understanding the seriousness of the situation and dire need to educate theatregoers on history to help avoid repeating the destruction faced by the Jewish people in the past. 


Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt is set in Vienna in 1899 and follows the mass destruction of two wealthy Jewish families connected by marriage over 50 years. The title is taken from the Jewish quarter in Vienna. Featuring a brilliant cast of 38 actors directed by Patrick Marber, critical acclaim and awards have poured in for this truly must see play. The subject matter, intensity and non-stop drama make this an edge of your seat, tissue grabbing, heart grueling, lesson teaching, insightful and timely masterpiece. 


Below follows the Echo’s interview with Leopoldstadt’s David Krumholtz

  • What drew you to the role of Hermann in Leopoldstadt?

At first I was I was a little intimidated by getting the offer to do an audition for such a big role. But once I committed to it I saw Hermann as this flawed hero – a guy who really had a positive view of the future and believed strongly that Jews in Europe would be able to assimilate successfully and that great perseverance would result in peace and harmony with neighbors in Europe. And for me, I think anyone who is that positive and believes that assimilation works – that struck a chord with me – especially considering that time proved him wrong – that over time he was proven wrong. It’s pretty extraordinary that he stuck to his convictions and was steadfast in promoting assimilation. It’s something that, in a perfect world, should work. I believe in assimilation – one human race. Ultimately, Hermann is a humanist and it was hard to be that then and it’s still hard to be that today. It seems that people have tribal instincts that separate them. But I believe personally that separation causes more harm than good.

  • How do you prepare for a role that deals with such a heavy subject matter? 

There is no way to really prepare for how you are going to feel other than to just being open to feeling anything. In rehearsals, the breadth of the devastation of the play really sunk its teeth to all the actors. And wrapping your head around the message that you were going to be delivering every night to audiences all over New York and people travelling in from all over the world to see the show – having to wrap your head around the responsibility of that was really the big challenge. It is easier, obviously, to make a crowd laugh or make a crowd think and contemplate but this show requires that we make our audience feel some very desperate feelings – very devastating feelings; bearing the weight of having to deliver that message is what I prepared for by simply letting it affect me and understanding how vital it is to do that.

  • Can you talk about the process of working with the playwright, Tom Stoppard, and the rest of the creative team? 

At first my introduction to the process was through Patrick Marber, who is the Director.  Patrick seemed to believe in me doing this role more than I believed in myself doing it, which is always great because whatever doubts I had or insecurity about playing the role, they were calmed by the guy in charge. And then Tom Stoppard showed up to rehearsals about three weeks into the process. And I was warmed to greet him and to find out he was quite charmed with what I was doing. It was a big bolster to my confidence to know that I was servicing the writing in a manner that made him happy. Both Patrick Marber and Tom Stoppard care very much for this piece. They’ve been with this piece for quite some time. It’s Tom’s personal story. So, it’s even more relevant to Tom than perhaps some of his earlier work. Wrapping my head around that responsibility was helped by them being so supportive of me and helping me fine tune who Hermann is from moment to moment in the play.

  • The play is set in the Jewish community in Vienna before and during World War II, how did you research the historical context and time period for your character?

We were given a bunch of reading material – one is a book called The Last Waltz in Vienna. I also visited the Jewish History Museum in downtown New York for some context. We were provided with maps to get a sense of the physical location and how close cities like Galicia were to Vienna and the comparative socioeconomic situations in those cities. We were given a lot of information. And of course, there was the personal information that I knew about my own family’s experience in the Holocaust that kind of informed a lot of what I needed to know to play the part. 

  • What do you hope audiences take away from their experience watching Leopoldstadt?

The whole idea of a play like Leopoldstadt being put on 85 or 90 years after the actual events of the Holocaust, is to remind people of the devastation of the Holocaust. Generations that are young and learning about the Holocaust read it is something factual on a piece of paper in their textbook or in their history classes.

But the devastation of the Holocaust or of any genocide, whether it be Jewish people or any human genocide, is that individuality is robbed. The basic core of individuality is robbed of each one of these people. So, your dreams, your aspirations, your loves, your hopes – who you are – your personality, your sense of humor, your knowledge – everything you prepared yourself to be – none of it matters if you’re wiped out and murdered for being something you can’t help yourself from being – being born into a race or a religion. And so, the play makes a very strong point of that. There are 38 characters in the play. There’s not enough time to get to know them all. By the end of the play the audiences feel frustrated at not knowing exactly who each person was and how they were related to one another. That frustration is the frustration born of the horrific frustration born of genocide. That is what we lose. We lose who we are when we commit genocide. I hope people understand that this is not just a Jewish story – this is a story of humanity at its worst; and how dangerous it is to wipe out one life much less millions of lives, because one life is a whole world. So many lives were lost. It’s a very stark way to present the Holocaust by showing you an entire family that was wiped out.    


  • You had success at a young age with the role of Bernard in the Santa Clause movies. How long were you acting before that and how did you manage the responsibilities at such a young age? 

I started acting when I was 13 years old. I did the Santa Clause when I was 16 years old. I had only been acting a couple of years. To be honest with you I felt the whole thing was a fluke and felt like I got really lucky. And there’s an argument to say that I did. Certainly, I was a talented kid but talent only gets you so far. I got very lucky and just felt very grateful from a very early age to have been given the opportunity. I grew up loving movies – watching tons of movies. So, to get the opportunity to be in movies when I was a kid was mind-blowing. And I’ve never lost that sense of awe and of privilege to this day.

  • You have now been in hit movies, TV series and Broadway productions. What is left for you to conquer as an artist? 

As an actor, the whole idea is to age into talent. In other words, let the lessons of aging become the lessons of acting. I hope that I can get better and better – more refined, more nuanced. As I get older that is kind of the whole goal. But I do love writing and I do love other things. For the longest time I didn’t love just being an actor. I thought I should be a creator and then I created a TV show called Gigi Does It. That was fun but no one watched it and that was a terrible feeling. So, I’m glad just being an actor and hopefully I can continue to develop. I come with the perspective that I’m only just beginning. 

  • What is the one thing about you that you wish people would know but they never ask you about it so they never find out? 

That is a great question Jack. I don’t really know. My life is a bit of an open book for most of my friends and family. I’ve been through a lot of difficult things. I’m a cancer survivor. I deal with clinical depression. I’m a father of two children. And so, my light and fluffy persona is born out of some genuine hardship and that hardship informs my talent, my acting, my ability to do the thing. They say that no blues guitarist is ever really great until he’s had his heart broken a few times. And that is kind of how I feel about myself as an artist is that the things that have informed me and made me a better actor are the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. I’m grateful for those things. 

  •  What advice would you give to aspiring high school actors? 

I would say be good to yourself. Be open as possibilities. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to be taught. Be willing to fail. But never give up on yourself. If it’s a dream – if you’re born into wanting to be an actor – then it’s a calling you have to follow through with. Be smart. Make sure to get an education – a degree, a college degree if you can. There are lean times as a professional actor. You can always fall back on that. It’s a fight. You have to give your all and your best – and don’t forget to shine.