By Elizabeth Wardle
“Nathan the Wise”, a BYU theatre production set against the backdrop of the Crusades during a time of conflict and religious misunderstanding communicates a message applicable for today”s world, plays through Oct. 9 in the Pardoe Theatre, Harris Fine Arts Center.
Theatre and Media Arts Department Chair Bob Nelson directs this German masterpiece written in 1779 by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. A recent translation by Edward Kemp was the determining factor in deciding to put on “Nathan the Wise.”
“Most of the play happens on a distinctly personal level, raising particularly pertinent questions,” Nelson said.
Questions the audience can relate to are part of an underlying theme such as: “How do we face horrors perpetrated by strangers, others who don”t understand us and whom we don”t understand, and still remain charitable?” or “How do we practice our faith with zeal, while still honoring others” agency, demonstrating our ”love unfeigned” toward others?”
Nathan, a Jewish debt collector played by Craig Ferre visiting professor from BYU-Hawaii attributes Nathan”s wisdom to his ability to listen to others carefully and evaluate situations then look at them from the other person”s point of view, this being the basis for a charitable person.
“We often associate the words wisdom and love. I think they are actually companions to one another,” Ferre said. “Nathan, because of his love of people helps him to be more wise and because he is wise I think he is more loving.”
Ferre calls it serendipitous that he happened to be here this semester after requesting a transfer to help his daughter get into school. Nelson and Ferre went to graduate school together and because of past associations Ferre was cast as Nathan. Nelson might go so far as to say he is too good to play Nathan whereas Ferre exhibits modesty in wondering why he was even cast.
The play urges viewers to take note that all are siblings of the same family, Nelson said.
Auditions were held the first week of Aug. After nearly 120 hours of rehearsal, typically 20 hours a week Monday through Saturday, the first play of the season is ready.
With a goal in mind to reach out to audiences, the theatre department has produced one of their best paper programs yet, Nelson said. Included in each audience member”s copy of the program is a study guide section providing information on the original author and historical information on the play”s characters. Additionally, there will be an open discussion and a question and answer session for audiences Thursday nights and Saturday after the matinee.
Performances run through Saturday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m. with no evening performances Sept. 25 and Oct. 2. Matinee performances are Sept. 25 and Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. There will be no performances Sundays or Mondays.
Tickets are available through the Fine Arts Ticket Office at (801) 378-4322 or at cfac.byu.edu/pe for $12, with $3 off with a student or faculty ID.