Nathan the Wise
by Gotthold Lessing
. . . a plea for tolerance
Monday, May 11th, 7:30pm
7190 Oak Street
Monday, May 25th, 7:30pm
St. Mary’s, Kerrisdale
2490 West 37th Street
(admission by donation)
"Perhaps the most inspirational classical play for our time"
With Jay Brazeau as Nathan
Blackbird Theatre, in co-operation with Temple Sholom and St. Mary's Kerrisdale, and through the assistance of the Seedlings Foundation, presents the reading of a classic play that speaks directly to the urgent need for racial and religious tolerance.
In a witty and free flowing translation by Edward Kemp, Gotthold Lessing’s 18th century masterpiece offers a healing tale for all humankind. Never allowed a performance during Lessing’s lifetime, and later banned by the Nazis, Nathan the Wise now seems a very modern work, countering prejudice with humour, compassion and reason.
The story is set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade. An uneasy stalemate exists between the Muslim forces of Saladin and the western Crusaders. Caught in the middle are the Jews. All sides respect Nathan, a Jewish merchant, for his wisdom and wealth. But in a war-zone no one is secure.
The centerpiece of the work is the Ring Parable, narrated by Nathan when asked by Saladin which religion is true.
An heirloom ring with the magical ability to render its owner pleasant in the eyes of God and mankind has been passed from father to the son he loves most. When it comes to a father of three sons whom he loves equally, he promises it (in "pious weakness") to each of them. Looking for a way to keep his promise, he has two replicas made, which were indistinguishable from the original, and gives on his deathbed a ring to each son.
The brothers quarrel over who owns the real ring. A wise judge admonishes them that it is up to them to live such that their ring's powers prove true. Nathan compares this to religion, saying that each of us lives by the religion we have learned from those we respect.
The character of Nathan is modeled after Lessing's lifelong friend and chess partner, the eminent philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (grandfather of the composer). Nathan will be played by one of Vancouver’s most popular and gifted actors, Jay Brazeau.
"one of those almost forgotten dramatic treasures that emerge into the limelight both rich and shining ..." Daily Telegraph
"a deeply moving drama ... brilliantly lucid translation ... cannot fail to move" The Guardian
“Fresh and witty prose translation by Edward Kemp. . .” The Independent
"you genuinely want to know what will happen next.” Daily Telegraph