Dubbed by critics “A National Treasure,” for the past twenty years Tom Dugan’s one-man plays have thrilled audiences from Beverly Hills, to 42nd street, and have been the subject of many PBS programs throughout North America. His play WIESENTHAL, (Produced by Daryl Roth) honored with multiple awards and nominations (N.Y. Drama Desk, N.Y. Outer Critics Circle, L.A. Ovation, L.A. Drama Critics Circle), has enjoyed productions in Israel, India, Australia, Italy, and Mexico. A feature film of WIESENTHAL produced by Dan Kaplow is now in the works.
Mr. Dugan’s newest pieces TELL HIM IT’S JACKIE (“impeccable” ~ Theatre notes), and TEVYE IN NEW YORK! (“Magical” ~ LA Times) are currently on national tour. Mr. Dugan’s other acting credits include FRIENDS, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, DAVE, KINDERGARTEN COP, and NAKED GUN.
Frequently Asked Questions
My father was a decorated WWII veteran. He received a Bronze Battle Star and a Purple Heart, and he carried shrapnel in his hip. He also liberated some of the Buchenwald concentration camps. One day, I said to him, “You must really hate Germans.” He replied, “No. I don’t judge people by what group they belong to. I judge them by how they behave.” I was eight and this stuck with me Years later when I read Wiesenthal’s obituary it described his rejection of collective guilt and it reminded me of my father. This concept inspired me to write the play.
Although my wife Amy and two sons Eli and Miles are Jewish, I was raised an Irish Catholic. Tolerance has always played a large role in our household. With my father’s experience as a camp liberator, and my own experience of raising two Jewish boys, playing Simon, who’s whole life was dedicated to tolerance, feels like a comfortable fit for me.
It certainly appeals to a Jewish audience but my hope is it is a beacon for all people to understand Wiesenthal and his global mission. Wiesenthal wanted to encourage mankind to grow in self-awareness not to dismiss the atrocities during war as in any way acceptable. Rather he wanted people to be alert that genocide could happen to any marginalized people at any time. This is a human story.
Hardly. Art is intended to illuminate and entertain and Simon Wiesenthal used his wit and sense of humor to ingratiate himself with people who could help his cause. He was a very interesting and charming man which made my job easier. That is why young people have seen the play and commented: this didn’t suck. I firmly believe the teachable moments can be more effective if they leave room for a range of emotions which this play does.
Many people would think it was because he brought or was instrumental in bringing 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice. That is what he is known for. Because of Simon Wiesenthal’s work humanity is forced to confront war crimes. He educated people about them, work that is continued with the help of Rabbi Marvin Hier who founded the Wiesenthal Center. However, one of the things I most admire is how he related the Holocaust to humanity. He saw the savage in humans first hand and his legacy is that we never forget or ignore the signs.
Again, Simon Wiesenthal made this easy for me. I wrote the play to read and to be performed like a spy adventure. Wiesenthal was a Nazi Hunter and his stories are the stuff of legend. While this is not a pure biography I didn’t have to go too far in describing the antics he used to find his targets. He was dogged and intelligent. He did not give up.
Having the play published in book form through Bashert Books Press opened many opportunities beyond what could be done with the performance. I would love for all students to see the play in person so they can be immersed in the character and personality of Simon Wiesenthal. But we felt the next best thing was to provide a study guide not only about him but about the Holocaust that would put in perspective why it is important we never forget. All one needs to do is look at the news to see the rise in all kinds of domestic terrorism targeting many populations on our own soil. This is the savagery Simon Wiesenthal wanted people to acknowledge. We hope through education we can someday live in an inclusive society where hatred is a thing of the past.
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