A Collaboration Between Teatro Luis Poma (El Salvador) and Sandglass Theater.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing published Nathan the Wise in 1779 as an epic poem, a play written in verse. It is a great German Enlightenment work, dealing with the interconnectedness of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Set during the crusades in Palestine, Nathan is the story of a young Christian Templar Knight who is spared execution by the sultan, Saladin, because the Templar’s face reminds Saladin of the face of his long-dead brother. The Templar, bewildered by this reprieve, later finds himself rushing into a burning house and rescuing the daughter of a rich Jewish merchant. This, too, bewilders him, as he and his order are no friends of Jews. The play progresses to a climax in which the true identities and interconnectedness of all the characters is revealed. It is a play in which racial, religious, and cultural hatred are expected from all of the characters, but ultimately is found in none of them, as each becomes humanized in the others’ eyes.
This collaborative production deconstructs Nathan the Wise into a contemporary piece for puppets and actors, performed in Spanish by seven actors of Teatro Luis Poma. The project also seeks to address what Luis Poma director Roberto Salomon sees as the rise of right-wing Catholicism in El Salvador, which has increasingly bred intolerance. The puppets give the play an iconic form, allowing the texts to be heard beyond the characters. Music for Natan el Sabio is composed and performed by Scott Ainslie of Brattleboro, Vermont-based blues guitarist and songwriter.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Eric Bass and Roberto Salomon
Puppets and Set Design by:
Ines Zeller Bass
Sandglass Theater’s Eric Bass and Ines Zeller Bass spent three weeks in San Salvador in April 2014. During that time they worked with the Teatro Luis Poma actors on developing an approach to manipulation of the puppets. In October, Eric and Ines were in El Salvador again to begin staging the performance. The final phase of development has been scheduled for the summer of 2015, during which time the work will be completed and performed in San Salvador. A tour of the show in the United States is planned for 2016.
This production is made possible by funding from Theater Communications Group’s Global Connections, National Performance Network Performing Americas Program, and the Fresh Sound Foundation.