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Jane Enkin

WJR's Jane Enkin Interviews Tom Dugan, Actor and Writer of the One Man Play About Simon Weisenthal at Royal MTC Nov 19-Dec 5

by Jane Enkin November 13, 2015

Preview

by Jane Enkin

janeenkinmusic.com

Wiesenthal

November 19 – December 5 | Preview November 18

 

Tom Hendry Warehouse, RMTC

Written by and starring Tom Dugan

Directed by Jenny Sullivan

 

 

 

“When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?' I will say, ‘I did not forget you’."

 

Simon Wiesenthal, a concentration camp survivor, dedicated his life to searching out Nazi war criminals – identifying them, finding their locations, and building enough evidence to lead to solid legal cases against them.

 

Actor and writer Tom Dugan brings Wiesenthal to life in his one-man play. Dugan has toured the show across the United States, has played to great acclaim in New York and Toronto, and is planning to tour to Israel. He has recently been honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, as well as nominations for the Los Angeles Ovation Award, the New York Outer Critics Circle Award, and The New York Drama Desk Award.

 

Reviews of the play describe Dugan's powerful acting presence as well as the impressive storytelling of his script. Reviewer Matthew Murray writes, “The fire and the hope burn so brightly behind his eyes that you both understand and get enveloped in his passion,” and mentions “an intimacy that gives the script a disarming, avuncular, and strictly conversational feel.” (https://www.talkinbroadway.com/ob/11_05_14a.html)

 

I had the opportunity to speak with Tom Dugan over the phone from his Los Angeles home.

 

Inspired by great one-person plays of the past, such as Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain, Dugan has specialized in one-person shows for many years. He enjoys the control and artistic expression involved in creating a character, beginning with research, writing a script, and then acting the role. “The suspension of disbelief is just part of the magic of theatre, and I believe a one-person show has just a little bit more magic.” In moments, you feel you are really in the presence of an historical figure.

 

For this play, Dugan had the opportunity to study not only Wiesenthal's own books and several excellent biographies, but also documentaries and interviews featuring Wiesenthal. “It's the first time I've had that challenge. I do a play about General Lee and no one knows exactly what he sounded like or what his mannerisms were. But here we have Wiesenthal whose friends are all over – hundreds of his friends have now seen the play.”

 

The drama is set in Wiesenthal's Vienna office, in 2003, when Wiesenthal was over 90 – actor Dugan transforms himself with makeup, costume and a style of movement based on his observations of an elderly Polish uncle. “I'm not an impersonator, but combining all of these elements – a happy accident is that everybody who knew Wiesenthal who sees the show says, 'He was exactly like that!'”

 

Dugan is an Irish-Catholic American, so he brings his own perspective to what some people might consider a Jewish story. “My father received a bronze battle star in World War II and he liberated a camp called Langenstein in Germany. So I did grow up with Holocaust stories, from the perspective of a liberator.” Asked why it was that his father chose to tell these stories, Dugan said, “I think I was so persistent that I wore him down. My older siblings, when I shared his stories, said 'He told you that?' Dugan enriched his research by talking with survivors who shared their stories. “I was able to apply the intensity to Wiesenthal's experience in the camps.”

 
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