Latest production from Theater Department teaches religious tolerance

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October 9, 2017

Marisela and Kevin

Marisela Weber and Kevin Duong rehearse a scene.

George and Kevin

George Dornbach and Kevin Duong during dress rehearsal.

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Theater Department has gone back in time for its latest presentation.

“Nathan the Wise” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-21, 2 p.m. Oct. 21 and Oct. 22; and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23-24 in the Colman Theater, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB.

The play is roughly set during and just after the Third Crusade (1189-92), and was written by German playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81). Lessing made a fervent plea for religious tolerance, and the play was forbidden to be performed by the Catholic Church during Lessing’s lifetime (it was initially performed in 1783).

This classic was chosen for several reasons, according to Kaarin Johnston, professor of theater at CSB and SJU who is directing the show.

“This production is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Collegeville Institute, whose mission is to explore faith, ignite imagination and to renew community,” Johnston said. “Since it is set during the Third Crusade, it offers challenging roles for student actors, types of costuming rarely produced at the college level and an opportunity for a significant number of student designers.”

Johnston said there are five students serving as designers: CSB senior Jessica Davis (lighting), CSB junior Evelyn Flaherty (set design), CSB senior Dana Svensson (costumes), SJU junior Cormac Quinn (sound) and SJU senior Joshua Laundergan (sound).

“For the first time in the history of the Theater Department, there are five student designers creating the ‘look’ for this production,” Johnston said. “Each student designer is being mentored by a Theater Department faculty member, who helps the students learn the professional procedures for creating their art.

“The set is amazing,” Johnston said. “We are doing the production in the round, and Evelyn has designed an amazing floor piece and the students have painted it — with rocks and pieces of mosaics and bricks and tiles – broken and worn by time with sand drifting in and around the edges.”

Johnston added that the designers’ work is being documented with photos “so they will have a strong portfolio to take with them on job interviews.” They have also assembled a time-lapse video of the set being drawn and painted from start to finish, which will be posted on the Theater Department’s website.

The play uses the encounters of the four primary characters — Saladin (played by SJU senior Kevin Duong), Nathan (SJU senior George Dornbach), Recha (CSB junior Emerita Palencia) and the Templar (SJU senior Gabriel Kwan) — to make a strong case for religious tolerance. Characters in the play are of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Greek Orthodox religions.

Tickets for the play are $10 for adults; $7 for CSB and SJU faculty, staff and seniors; and $5 for CSB and SJU students. Tickets are available online; by phone at 320-363-5777; or at the BAC ticket office.