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NATHAN THE WISE Receives American Premiere, Starring Strathairn, At People's Light 9/16-10/11

People's Light & Theatre Company kicks off their 35th Anniversary Season with the American Premiere of NATHAN THE WISE translated by Edward Kemp from the play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. NATHAN THE WISE runs from September 16 - October 11, 2009, on the Main Stage. Artistic Director AbiGail Adams directs. People's Light & Theatre is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern. For tickets call 610-644-3500 or visit

NATHAN THE WISE (German title Nathan der Weise) is a plea for religious tolerance. Lessing completed the first rough draft of the play in November 1778. He then began putting it into verse and was the first in Germany to use iambic pentameter. The play was published in May 1779, but did not receive its first public performance until April 1783, two years after Lessing's death. The character of Nathan is based on Lessing's good friend and German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.

The original full verse text is dense and long. The Kemp translation, written in 2003, has been called "...fresh and witty," and "a fine translation, which combines Germanic seriousness with a winning English wit." It premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2003 and received two subsequent productions - at the Harbourfront Theatre in Toronto and The Hampstead Theatre in England. The People's Light production is the American Premiere.

NATHAN THE WISE is a colorful story, rich in wisdom and warmth, which celebrates our differences as well as our shared humanity. It takes place in 1192 in Jerusalem, where Jews, Christians and Muslims live side by side. A heroic act by a mysterious Templar brings together a wealthy Jewish merchant, his love-struck daughter, a sultan and a Christian Patriarch.

People's Light has assembled a cast of company members along with notable guest artists who are either affiliated with the company or have worked with the theatre in the past. Film and stage star David Strathairn, who appeared at People's Light in Sally's Gone, She Left Her Name in 2000, will play Nathan. Roslyn Ruff, who now has many Off-Broadway credits, and who appeared at People's Light in In the Blood in 2003, will play Sittah. Also, former company member Saige Thompson, who now lives in Los Angeles and has appeared on numerous TV shows, will play Rachel, Nathan's daughter.

The show's director and People's Light's Artistic Director, AbiGail Adams says, "NATHAN THE WISE opens our 35th anniversary season. It couldn't be more apt for us to kick off our year with a play in which friendship amidst difference trumps all other values. In our production, especially in the cast, we celebrate the long artistic friendships with company members and guests that define who we are."

With this production People's Light introduces a new program for the 6-Play Series called The Scoop: History, Context, and Gossip, a lively discussion before every performance. A member of the cast or artistic staff will discuss the world of the play, how and why it was chosen, as well as how it was cast, designed, and rehearsed. Refreshments will be available in the lobby before The Scoop begins and before the performance. The program will start one hour before the curtain and will take place in the theatre. No reservations are necessary.

NATHAN THE WISE previews on Wednesday, September 16 and Thursday, September 17th at 7:30pm. The show opens on Saturday, September 19th at 8pm and runs through October 11th. Single tickets go on sale in mid-August and cost $29-$48, with special discounts available for youth, seniors, and groups of 10 or more.

Subscription tickets are now available. In addition to NATHAN THE WISE, shows on the 6-Play series include ABSENCE (October 14 - November 8, 2009), SNOW WHITE: A MUSICAL PANTO (November 18 - January 3, 2010), KING LEAR (March 3 - March 28, 2010), STRETCH (March 31 - April 25, 2010), THE SECRET OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (July 7 - August 8, 2010).

Special performances and discounts, in addition to discount meal packages and talk-backs with the artists, are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase group tickets, call 610.647.1900, ext. 134 or email

Gotthold Lessing (Playwright) was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. At university he studied theology, then medicine, and later literature and philosophy. But already he had made a connection with the stage through translating French plays for Frau Neuber's theater. In 1748 Frau Neuber put on Lessing's own maiden effort, Der Junge Gelehrte. From that time on, regardless of his financial fortunes, Lessing gave his entire interest to some form of writing. For a time he did translations for Voltaire. This contact, however, soon ended in disagreement, according to some authorities, because Lessing betrayed a literary confidence of Voltaire's. The friendship could not have lasted long, at any rate, because Lessing soon found his own dramatic beliefs directly opposed in principle to Voltaire's pseudo-classicism. His revolt against the Voltairean school is expressed in practical fashion in his first important play, Miss Sara Sampson (1755), a bourgeois tragedy of epoch-making importance to the German stage. In 1767 Lessing's famous Minna von Barnhelm appeared, the first German comedy with characters and action concerned with contemporary German life. In 1770 he was made court librarian for the Duke of Brunswick at Wolfenbuttel. With an income thus assured he married, only to lose his wife and an infant son within two years. To assuage his grief, he plunged more deeply than ever into literary work. He completed during this period the remarkable prose tragedy, Emilia Galotti, and wrote the powerful Nathan the Wise, a play which departed decidedly from precedent in its choice of subject. Lessing was not only the first truly German playwright, but he is known, too, as the "father of German criticism." Notable among his critical works is the celebrated Hamburg Dramaturgy. Lessing's literary activity continued with unimpaired mental vigor right up to the time of his sudden death while on a trip to Brunswick in 1781.

Edward Kemp (Translator) was born in Oxford and grew up in Worcester, Yorkshire and Chichester. He trained with the National Youth Theatre and read English Language and Literature at New College Oxford. After university, and following a brief spell as Dramaturg at the National Youth Theatre, Edward became an Assistant Director at the Chichester Festival Theatre. He then went to work with Anthony Quayle's Compass Theatre where he founded the company's education and community wing. From 1991-1996 he was Staff Director at the Royal National Theatre working with Steven Pimlott on The Miser, Roger Michell on The Coup, Alan Ayckbourn on Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays, Phyllida Lloyd on Pericles, What The Butler Saw and The Way Of The World (for which he was also dramaturg), Richard Eyre on The Prince's Play, John Gabriel Borkman and Nicholas Hytner on The Madness of George III, The Recruiting Officer, Carousel and The Wind In The Willows. He directed revivals of both The Wind In The Willows and The Madness Of George III, and the US tour of the latter. As a director his work includes Marlow's Doctor Faustus with Samuel West and Michael Feast, Anouilh's Wild Orchids (Leocadia) with Patricia Routledge, Peter Whelan's The Accrington Pals (Chichester), Neil Monaghan's Beautiful People (Scarborough), Heiner Muller's Mommsen's Block, Gertrude Stein's Dr Faustus Lights the Lights (Vermont), As I Lay Dying (Louisiana), The Cherry Orchard, ‘Tis Pity She's a Whore, Romeo & Juliet, King John, King Lear, The Comedy Of Errors, Twelfth Night, John Whiting's The Devils, Brecht's Fear and Misery in the Third Reich, Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis. For The Table Show, he has directed The Reprieve (Battersea Arts Centre), Coventry (National Theatre), Wanted Man (Battersea Arts Centre, Edinburgh Fringe, British Council, New Zealand, Budapest) and Missing Reel (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Traverse, Edinburgh). Writing includes five adaptations in French for Théâtre Sans Frontières, a dramatisation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying for the Young Vic and radio adaptations of The Mysteries and WG Sebald's The Emigrants. He has written numerous short opera libretti, including for both the Royal Opera House and ENO Studios, and a screenplay of Edmund Gosse's Father and Son. In 2000 he was first writer in residence at the Cove Park artists' centre on the west coast of Scotland, for whom he created a sound installation and numerous pieces of environmental art. With The Table Show he has created Word on the Street, a mile long text work for Lavender Hill in Battersea. He is currently the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

AbiGail Adams (Director) is Artistic Director of the People's Light & Theatre Company. During her 32-year association with the Theatre, she has directed more than 60 plays. Recent productions include The Day of the Picnic, Getting Near to Baby, Theophilus North, Twelfth Night, Something You Did, Fabulation, The Member of the Wedding, The O'Conner Girls, Sleeping Beauty, The Miser, String of Pearls, Arthur's Stone, Merlin's Fire, and In the Blood. Abbey served for ten years on the faculty at Swarthmore College and has also taught at New York University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University and the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. She has served as a panelist and site reporter for the NEA and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College.

Peter DeLaurier (The Patriarch) recently appeared at PLTC in: A Tale of Two Cities, The Persians, Sherlock Holmes... and as the Director in Six Characters in Search of an Author (Barrymore Nomination). An Artistic Associate at PLTC, he has been with the Theatre since 1981. Other PLTC productions: Hard Times, Galileo, Abundance, Holes, A Delicate Balance, In the Blood, Sister Carrie and the international tour of Kabuki Achilles. Nominated for the Outstanding Actor Barrymore Award for PLTC's Man from Nebraska, he won for Underneath the Lintel at the Lantern (where he directed Sizwe Bansi is Dead last season). He playEd Matthew Cuthbert at PLTC in his recently published stage adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (nominated for the Barrymore for Outstanding New Play). He has directed at PLTC and at theatres around the country, serving as Artistic Director of New Stage Theatre in Jackson, MS. With his wife, PLTC actress Ceal Phelan, and other friends, he co-founded The Delaware Theatre Company in 1978.

Stephen Novelli (Saladin) appeared last season at People's Light as Dr. Manette in A Tale of Two Cities and Darius in The Persians. Other recent roles include The Father in Eurydice at The Wilma Theater, as well as John Aycliffe in Crispin: The Cross of Lead and The Father in Six Characters in Search of an Author at PLTC. He has directed Tuesdays with Morrie, Camping with Henry and Tom, The Hope Zone, As You Like It, Measure for Measure, and Glengarry GLen Ross, among others. A member of the resident company since 1974, he has performed in many productions, including The Imaginary Invalid, Jack and the Beanstalk, Born Yesterday, Julius Caesar, Midons-or The Object of Desire, The Little Foxes, all three versions of A Christmas Carol, The Merchant of Venice, Sacco and Vanzetti: A Vaudeville, Sign of the Lizard, The Playboy of the Western World, Sister Carrie, Hamlet, Tartuffe, The Tempest, and Have It Your Way.

Kathryn Petersen (Daya) has appeared in over sixty productions regionally, most recently appearing in Iron Kisses with Act II Playhouse, Kid Simple with Azuka Theatre and The Tempest at Arcadia Stage. Kathryn is also a produced and published playwright. People's Light will be producing her fifth Panto in November 2009-Snow White in Follywood. Kathryn is an Artistic Associate at People's Light, an Assistant Professor at Arcadia University, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Temple University.

Roslyn Ruff (Sittah) has appeared Off-Broadway in the following: Things of Dry Hours (NYTW); Seven Guitars (OBIE Award, Signature Theatre); Killa Dilla (Working Theatre); Cherry Orchard, Macbeth (Classical Theatre of Harlem); the world premiere of Pudd'nhead Wilson, Taming of the Shrew (The Acting Company). Her regional credits include: the world premiere of Coming Home (Long Wharf); 20th Century Cycle (August Wilson, Kennedy Center); Piano Lesson (IRT/Geva Theatre); Two Trains Running (Old Globe); the world premiere of Gee's Bend (ASF); Intimate Apparel, the world premiere of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Alliance); Gem of the Ocean (McCarter/ACT); King Lear (Yale Rep); Sleeping Beauty, Once in a Lifetime, In the Blood (Barrymore Award) (People's Light & Theatre Co.). Her international credits include: Macbeth (2004 Bonn Biennale Festival; Shakespeare Festival of Neuss, Germany), The Oedipus Plays (Shakespeare Theatre DC at 2003 Athens Festival, Greece). Film & TV: Salt (2010), Forgiveness (dir. Todd Solondz), Rachel Getting Married, In the Blood, The Jury, Sopranos. Training: IATT at Harvard University (MFA).

Graham Smith (The Lay Brother) has been in more than 180 plays and 10 films. His history includes a B.A. (Davidson College), M.F.A. (Hilberry Classic Theatre), twelve years with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival (NCSF), plus 24 seasons with the Charlotte Repertory Theatre. A member of the Resident Ensemble of Artists at PLTC since 1999, he lives in Charlotte with his wife, Audrey Brown, and their two golden retrievers, Henry Possum and Slim Underfoot. Recent work at PLTC includes Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Danforth in The Crucible, Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes & The Case of the Jersey Lily; Dinko in The Day of the Picnic. Plus Gonzalo in The Tempest at Actors' Theatre of Louisville; Lear in King Lear, Verges in Much Ado, and Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and Salter in A Number at the North Carolina Stage Company.

David Strathairn (Nathan) last appeared on stage at People's Light in Russell Davis' Sally's Gone She Left Her Name, and in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center in Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, a piece for actors and orchestra, directed by Jiri Zizka, who also directed him in the U.S. premiere of David Gow's Cherry Docs at the Wilma. He last performed in NY in 2007 playing Cassius in Richard Nelson's Conversations at Tusculum at The Public Theatre and has for almost two years now has been taking part in Bryan Doerries' The Philoctetes Project in which the plays of Sophocles, Ajax and Philoctetes, are read to military communities throughout the U.S. with the intention of destigmatizing psychological injury through ancient stories about warriors struggling to be heard and to be healed, creating a catalyst for discussion about the devastating effects that war has upon our entire society in terms of health care, chronic illness, and veterans and their families. Other theatre credits include The Tempest, Act/SF; Dance of Death and Salome, ny/B'way; Winter's Tale and The Birthday Party csc/ny. Of the many independent films he has appeared in, seven of which are works by John Sayles, the most recent are: Sophie Barthes' Cold Souls starring Paul Giamatti, Julie Taymor's The Tempest starring Helen Mirren, and Howl, a film about Allen Ginsberg's poem of the same name and the controversy surrounding it.

Saige Thompson (Rachel) is returning to People's light in Nathan after a seven-year hiatus. Last time she was seen at PLTC was in 2002 under Abbey's direction in The Little Foxes. Other PLTC credits go back to 1988 where she made her stage debut (under Abbey's direction) in A Doll's House at age six. She went on to do another twenty productions at PLTC through the years. Favorites include: Dimly Perceived Threats to the System, A Village Fable, Playhouse Creatures and The Secret Garden. She has been living in Los Angeles (the last 7 years) and was cast as a serious regular on FOX's short-lived Life on a Stick and last year's ABC Family mini-series Samurai Girl. Other TV credits include: ER, Ghost Whisperer, Cold Case, CSI, Without a Trace, Veronica Mars, Grey's Anatomy, Raising the Bar and the Lifetime movie Racing for Time.

John Wernke (The Templar) has been seen in The Fantasticks as well as Theophilus North. Credits include-Broadway: The American Plan (Manhattan Theatre Club), Accent on Youth (MTC); regional: Betrayal (Hangar Theatre), The Beard of Avon (Portland Center Stage), Twelfth Night (PCS), and The Last Hurrah (Huntington Theatre Co.). He also appeared in the revival of Meredith Monk's Quarry at the Spoleto Festival. TV/Film: Life on Mars, The Good Shepherd, Broken English.

Brian Anthony Wilson (Al-Hafi) is returning to the stage at People's Light, where he recently appeared as Refrigerator John in Eggs. Other roles include Alonzo Fields in Looking Over the President's Shoulder at Hedgerow Theatre, Avery in The Piano Lesson at the Arden, Othello at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, Becker in Jitney at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company, Marty in Dreamgirls at the Prince Music Theatre, Lyons in Fences at the Arden and The Actors Theatre of Louisville, Juror #6 in 12 Angry Men at Cleveland Playhouse, Alexandre Dumas pére in Les Trois Dumas at People's Light, King Hedley II at Philadelphia Theatre Company, Herald Loomis in Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and Gabriel in Fences at Bushfire Theatre. TV credits include The Sopranos, Law & Order: SVU and five seasons as Homicide Detective Vernon Holley on HBO's The Wire. Movie credits include The Postman, Keeping the Faith, Explicit Ills, Shelter, The Good Student, Law Abiding Citizen and the recently completed romantic comedy, Love You, Mean It.

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