One-Man Show, “Nazi Hunter: Simon Wiesenthal,” at UWG

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The University of West Georgia’s Townsend Center for the Performing Arts will present Tom Dugan’s “Nazi Hunter: Simon Wiesenthal,” a one-man theatrical journey about the Austrian-Jewish Holocaust survivor.

The University of West Georgia’s Townsend Center for the Performing Arts will present Tom Dugan’s “Nazi Hunter: Simon Wiesenthal,” a one-man theatrical journey about the Austrian-Jewish Holocaust survivor. Wiesenthal survived the horrors of concentration camps and then began a pursuit of Nazi war criminals. He tracked down and brought to justice more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals around the world.

While the subject matter of the show is somber, Dugan said the play is written to inspire and enlighten.

“I never would have been able to write this play if Simon Wiesenthal himself didn’t have a great sense of humor,” Dugan said. “He was an amateur stand-up comedian, and he is able to tell stories about a very dark subject in a way that doesn’t turn the audience off.”

Dugan is an award-winning actor with an impressive resume. He’s had parts in films and TV including: “Friends,” “The Practice” and “Ghostbusters II.” He started acting in high school and began writing plays when he was in his late 30s.

“There is nothing better than performing your own material,” Dugan said.

The play, directed by Jenny Sullivan, premiered in 2009 and is currently on tour across the United States.

“Acting is such a healthy thing to do,” said Dugan. “People go to yoga, play baseball, do whatever they can to maintain their energy, focus and physical activity.”

Acting “just clears your mind and you can express your emotions in an environment where at times you can play the worst man in the world and say the meanest things, and people applaud you. It’s very therapeutic.”

This is the most recent of Dugan’s plays. It has received the best response of all the works that he has written so far.

“The audience is a big part of the show,” Dugan said.

Wiesenthal often met with students in his office in Vienna, Austria and told them stories about the Holocaust.

He “would let students ask questions during his stories to help [them] understand his philosophies, and that is the way the play is set up. The audience is literally his students.”

Dugan got the inspiration for the play from his father, a World War II veteran who received the Bronze Battle Star and the Purple Heart.

“Of all of his stories, the ones that fascinated me the most were the ones where his unit helped to liberate the concentration camps in Germany,” Dugan said. “The stories are full of such extremes – unfathomable cruelty versus complete kindness, enormous courage and revolting cowardice.”

For his research, Dugan traveled to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, where he was able to peruse an archive of transcripts and interviews, some of which were never published.

He presents the play on college campuses because students are the most receptive to the message – that the problem isn’t solved, and we must be vigilant never to repeat the horrors seen during the Holocaust.

“They are the most enthusiastic about making change for the good,” Dugan said. “What I hope to do is to nurture good feelings and humanitarianism, so that we can project that and make the country and the world a better place.”

“Nazi Hunter: Simon Wiesenthal” will be performed on Friday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors or those in the military and $8 for children. They are available online or at the Townsend Center. For more information, call 678-839-4722 or visit http://www.townsendcenter.org/.