Article Originally Published by Raquel Villatoro on North Texas Daily
Inside the University Theater at UNT’s RTFP Building, the stage is set to resemble a small historic town. After actors file in for rehearsal and take the stage, a battle with swords ensues.
The cast and crew is preparing for “Nathan the Wise,” a play directed by Akin Babatunde which opens on Nov. 7. They have been rehearsing since Sept. 22. The play, which is set in the 10th century during the crusades in Jerusalem, focuses on Jews, Christians and Muslims as People of the Book and the relationships between them.
Babatunde, the guest director originally from Brooklyn, has an extensive background in theatre, specifically in DFW. He has done plays at Jubilee Theatre and at Dallas Theatre Center, where in one production he worked with Donna Marquet, who helped rally for him to direct at UNT. He has taught at Mountain View Community and said he enjoys directing because of the opportunity to teach actors.
“The growth, [to] see where the cast starts from and see where they end up, it’s very rewarding,” Babatunde said. “It’s more rewarding for me.”
Theatre junior Savannah Locke plays Sittah, the sister of the Muslim sultan, Saladin. Locke said at first she struggled to connect with her role and had to seek assistance from the director. She also had to connect with the characters she interacts with, like Saladin. Something Locke said she can relate to in her character is her enjoyment of chess.
“ I really love playing chess,” Locke said. “I’m not very good at it, but I’ll surprise myself sometimes and win games and that really resonated with me. I felt I could relate to her because she’s all about winning, especially in chess. I’m not exactly competitive but I hate losing. I could relate to that a lot.”
Locke auditioned last spring for the role. Despite struggling to connect with her character, she has learned the complexities of Sittah over time. She said she likes that Sittah is a strong female character.
“You can empathize with her a lot because she’s very bitter,” Locke said. “She wanted to be married [to a Christian], but that marriage was destroyed because she would’ve had to convert to Christianity and give up her Muslim faith. I think she’s also a very strong, feminist character as well. She talks a lot about equality between men and women. She states that the Quran requires absolute spiritual and mortal equality of the sexes.”
Theatre senior Drew Daniels plays Recha, the Jewish daughter of Nathan. Daniels said she had to explore a younger version of herself in order to connect with her character. She had to rethink what love means because it is something her character deals with.
“My character is 16, so reverting myself back to [a] teenager is really interesting for me,” Drew Daniels said. “She’s a little bit spoiled. It was interesting to sort of rewind my maturity. I feel like I’m eons older than I was when I was 16.”
Daniels’ character has a love interest, Curd, who is a Christian and a member of the Templar knights. Theatre junior Dakkota Foster plays Curd. Foster’s character is involved in the crusades so he gets to use a sword, which he said is cool. Foster can relate to his character because he dislikes change, but he said getting into the mindset of Curd requires a lot of work.
“The crusades have been going for quite some time, and he’s tired,” Foster said. “He’s been at war. Just thinking about that and trying to get in that mindset that I’m tired, always fighting and [using] my sword that I use in the show is kind of heavy.”
The cast said they get along well and even have inside jokes, most of which are puns or based on lines from the play. The cast has good chemistry and have become closer working on this play. For Foster, he is glad to make friends in the production, as this is his first semester at UNT.
“I didn’t expect to get a role in anything,” Foster said. “I kept my hopes a little low so that if I got a role I’d be really really excited.”
Babatunde said he is glad the cast gets along and has enjoyed teaching and helping the young actors.
“People are very appreciative of the insight I have, [and] the eagerness I have in sharing that and giving them another perspective,” Babatunde said. “They’re very appreciative of that. They bonded through the struggles that have led to their growth-struggles in terms of working on the process.”
Showtimes for “Nathan the Wise” are on Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 9 and 10 at 2:00 p.m. in the RTFP Building. Tickets are $12.50 for UNT students, faculty, staff, alumni and seniors or $15 for the general public.
Featured Image: Theatre junior Dakota Foster plays Curd the Templar during a dress rehearsal of Nathan the Wise on Nov. 4, 2019. Image by Meredith Holser
Source: North Texas Daily