Weekend Round Up – Putting The Fist Week of the Wiesel/Madoff Drama in Context

National Public Radio’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED considerably widened the audience paying attention to our little season opening swap out with the following 8 minute segment on Thursday:

A Washington, D.C., theater is canceling its production of the play Imagining Madoff after objections from human rights activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. The play revolves around a fictional meeting between the convicted Ponzi schemer and Wiesel. Wiesel wrote a letter to the playwright, calling her work obscene and defamatory, and saying he would have his lawyer stop the production. Robert Siegel talks to lawyer and Columbia Law School lecturer Richard Lehv about the legal basis for Wiesel’s objection, and what rights a living person has when they are fictionalized. (listen to it here)

On facebook, once the news officially broke that Stageworks Hudson would be premiering the play this summer, subbing out the name of Elie Wiesel for a new character, the question was asked of me:
“I don’t quite understand why you guys didn’t just change the Wiesel character’s name, like they’re doing at Stageworks?”

To which I responded:
“The playwright, a friend, was receiving mixed advice on what to do – first she was rewriting and renaming; then she was holding fast and fighting – while we were of the position, rewrite and then show the Wiesels that he is no longer in the play – we would assert there was no “legally actionable material” and there would be confirmation that they would not proceed with their threat to stop the production. This could have happened in a two week turn around – but 8 days in, the play was withdrawn. So yes, it could have worked out, but Deb did not want the script going back to Wiesel for assurance that he would not sue; that’s the extent of how we approached this differently. So we’ll do a follow up production–provided Wiesel comes into clarity and does not litigate, and the show is available for us to do next season.”

To which my friend responded:
“My head aches just reading this, mate…”

And then in the blogosphere, follow this endless train on the site Parabasis: An online journal of culture and politics which reframes the whole issue today by putting Deb’s, Morgan’s and my own late night comments one after the other, while many, many respondents then hold forth.

It’ll be quieter this weekend and early next week, I imagine. But then things will heat up again, as much more extensive coverage of this issue breaks in the Washington City Paper and the Washington Jewish Week. Each have been sending reporters into the field, talking with many an interested party, and the result (hopefully) will be some interesting journalism. Stay tuned.

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