Wednesday, April 19th, 2017...11:52 am

One-man ‘Wiesenthal’ to play at Illusion Theater

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by MAX SPARBER

Actor-playwright Tom Dugan, who wrote and stars in a one-man show about Simon Wiesenthal called, appropriately, Wiesenthal, credits his decision to create the show to one quote by the famed Nazi hunter. Wiesenthal was asked if he blames Germans for the Holocaust, and Wiesenthal replied that he doesn’t believe in collective guilt.

Dugan’s father was a veteran of World War II who carried shrapnel in his body; and, when he was boy, Dugan asked him if he hated Germans for that. “No, I don’t judge people as a group,” his father answered, “but by how they behave.” Dugan was struck by how similar his father’s answers were to Wiesenthal’s, and knew that a play about the man would allow him to ask big questions about war, guilt and justice.

Actor Tom Dugan, left, with Holocaust survivor Leo Weiss and a letter from Simon Wiesenthal. (Photo: Courtesy Tom Dugan)

Dugan created the play in 2009, and has been touring with it ever since, including a critically lauded Off-Broadway run, in 2014. Wiesenthal used to speak to groups of high school students in his office, and the play uses this as a conceit, treating the audience as though they were one of these groups.

As a result, Dugan is able to revisit some of Wiesenthal’s most famous cases, including Adolf Eichmann and Karl Silberbauer, the officer who arrested Anne Frank.

Dugan says that audiences will be struck by how funny the play is; Simon Wiesenthal had been an entertainer before the war, and used those skills when addressing the public, to make his subject palatable.

Dugan follows each performance with a talkback session with the audience. Recently, in Florida, he found himself in discussion with a Holocaust survivor named Leo Weiss (now deceased), who had worked with Wiesenthal and brought a letter from the man. Weiss, a Minnesotan, was there with his daughter, Heather Stesin, and she was so taken with the show that she personally took responsibility for bringing it to Minneapolis.

Wiesenthal plays April 25-30 at the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. For tickets and show information, visit illusiontheater.org.

(American Jewish World, 4.21.17)

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