Elie Wiesel Objects to Use of His Name in a New Play in DC; Playwright Pulls Script

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19 May 2010

Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel
Photo by Aubrey Reuben
After humanitarian Elie Wiesel expressed concerns about being represented as a character in Deb Margolin's new play, Imagining Madoff, the writer has pulled the script from the 2010-11 schedule of Theater J, the Jewish theatre in Washington, DC.

According to a May 19 blog posting by artistic director Ari Roth on Theater J's website, "The playwright pulled the play from Theater J after she determined she was not able or willing to make the revisions we requested of her which included changing the name and likeness of the sage Jewish character in the play from 'Elie Wiesel' to a wholly new, fictional character."

Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, writer and humanitarian, objected to the use of his name as a character in the play, which focuses on the admitted (and now incarcerated) white-collar criminal, the investment consultant Bernard Madoff. Wiesel was one of many victims of Madoff's investment schemes, which bilked investors out of billions of dollars over several decades. Wiesel reportedly threatened legal action about his name being connected to the play.

The world premiere of the three-character Imagining Madoff was to play Aug. 28-Oct. 3 under the direction of Daniella Topol. It has been replaced by Willy Holtzman's five-character Something You Did, about "a convicted felon meeting one of his victims."

Roth stated that contrary to a report in the Washington Post, the leadership of the Equity company did not "cancel" the production. "Rather, the play was withdrawn by the author. We'll miss the play. And we're saddened by the events."



Margolin told The Washington Post that she put Wiesel in the play because "his name is synonymous with decency, morality, the struggle for human dignity and kindness."

Roth noted, "There are people to feel badly for here, much more so than for Theater J: Deb Margolin, for instance, who's written her heart out in this play; and yet it's a completely fictional rumination on a deeply proud — and, in the context of the Madoff scandal, shamed — public figure who was privately defrauded. The play has much pathos for him, but it's painful to revisit; and the Wiesel of the play is unrecognizable to Wiesel the man himself. That’s both the best and worst thing you can say about the play."