Jewish Journal

Imagining Madoff

by Naomi Pfefferman

July 20, 2010 | 3:52 pm

A scandal involving Elie Wiesel and a play with imagined scenes between the Nobel laureate and his former money advisor, Bernard L. Madoff, has come to a kind of resolution, if not an entirely happy ending.  According to an article in today’s New York Times, the original version of Deborah Margolin’s “Imagining Madoff” – whose Washington, D.C. premiere was cancelled after Wiesel exerted legal pressure – has been revised, with a new protagonist replacing the Wiesel character, and will open at the Stageworks/Hudson theater near Albany, NY this week.  The redone script describes the new character, Solomon Galkin, as “80 years old, Holocaust survivor, poet, translator, treasurer of his synagogue” – although he does speak much of the previous Wiesel dialogue.  Margolin has said she envisioned the famed Holocaust survivor and author Wiesel as a character in order to lend an authoritative moral voice to the drama. (Wiesel and his wife also lost their life savings and millions from their charitable foundation to Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme.)

The original play was to have been performed at Theater J, a Jewish-themed company that is part of a Jewish Community Center in Washington, the Times said:

“Ms. Margolin said she had initially hoped that Mr. Wiesel would find the play compelling and thoughtful.  But after she sent him a copy, Mr. Wiesel replied with a letter in April, saying he found the play to be ‘obscene’ and ‘defamatory,’ and in which he threatened to enlist his lawyers to stop its production.  According to Ms. Margolin and her lawyer, Mr. Wiesel and his foundation’s representatives never specified what they considered obscene or defamatory.”

When Theater J’s artistic director, Ari Roth, subsequently offered to show Wiesel a copy of her revised script – not in order to seek Wiesel’s approval, but as a good will gesture, he told The Times—Margolin took issue and offered the play to the Hudson, NY company.

According to The New York Observer:  “Wiesel sounds like kind of a jerk” in the Times story.

Meanwhile, the Obie-winning Margolin appeared exhausted by her clash with Wiesel, a man she admires:  “This has been a profoundly painful experience, and I’m still scared to talk about it, because I can’t get sued, there’s no way I could afford it… But I also didn’t want to abandon this play.”

Link to NYTimes.com piece.

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Danielle Berrin writes the award-winning Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile...

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