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Jason Sherman planning third part to ‘Nathan trilogy’

Jason Sherman

Jason Sherman wants to write the final chapter on characters he introduced to Canadian theatre audiences 25 years ago.

The Toronto playwright and screenwriter is writing the third play in a trilogy of “the Nathans”, three Jewish characters he first brought to the stage in 1992 with The League of Nathans. In 1995, he wrote the sequel Reading Hebron, and now he’s working on Ariel’s Wall, which is still in development.

Sherman is offering a free reading of the new script with actors on Nov. 19 at Berkeley Street Theatre Rehearsal Hall in partnership with Studio 180.

In The League of Nathans, boyhood friends Nathan Abramowitz, Nathan Glass and Nathan Isaacs are adults and going their separate paths, with Glass suddenly moving to Israel to join a JDL-like organization. Abramowitz, the most notable lead, grapples with his moral quagmires on faith, Zionism and allegiances to friends.

Reading Hebron followed how Abramowitz investigated the Hebron massacre – when a Jewish settler murdered 29 Muslims at prayer – as a way of questioning his own responsibility for the oppression of Palestinians.

Ariel’s Wall acts as a reunion for the three Nathans, but this time in Israel. Sherman says in an interview he doesn’t want to reveal too many details about the plot, since the work is in development and may shift considerably, but essentially the friends meet in Israel for the wedding of Nathan Isaacs’ son, and “they come to terms with all the crap they accrued over the years,” adds Sherman.

He says the lens will primarily be on Abramowitz  and “whether he is going to finally have the courage to act on what he claims to be his beliefs.”

Ariel’s Wall also touches on the friends’ value of loyalty, to each other and their relationship with Israel, Sherman says. “It wasn’t until I went to Israel myself six years ago that I thought of a way to wrap up the story of the Nathans,” Sherman says.

He notes that he began the Nathans saga in order to learn more about the bond Diaspora Jews have with Zionism, and how their view on Israel may change as they mature. Sherman also wanted to explore how “any criticism of Israel would spark reactions of anger.”

If theatre-goers haven’t heard Sherman’s name in awhile, they might not be aware of how he brought his writing talent to the screen. He has written extensively for TV and radio, including the CBC Radio series Afghanada and the TV series Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures and The Best Laid Plans. He also wrote the screenplay for the indie film After the Ball, starring Portia Doubleday of Mr. Robot fame.

He returned to theatre in 2013 when he adapted Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde for Soulpepper.

Studio 180 artistic director Joel Greenberg says about Sherman’s work: “His political voice is unique and he addresses issues that resonate with the company.”

He goes on to say what he finds appealing about Ariel’s Wall is “the currency of the issues raised and Jason’s unapologetic confusion about his conflicted responses to Israeli policies and individuals’ positions on all sides of the situation.”

To date, there is no timeline of when Ariel’s Wall will be produced. But Greenberg says a second reading of the play is scheduled for March or April 2017.