An image from the play "Nation."

Beloved British novelist's 'Nation' to have North American premiere at ASU MainStage

By

Deborah Sussman Susser

Based on the novel for young readers by one of Britain's most beloved writers, Terry Pratchett, “Nation” will have its North American stage premiere at Arizona State University, as part of the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre MainStage Season in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Megan Weaver, with media designed by Jacob Pinholster and Boyd Branch, the play is a theater for youth production that will be performed April 4-13 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on ASU's Tempe campus. Teen audiences are encouraged to attend.

"Nation" takes place in a parallel world in the 1860s. Two teenagers are thrown together on a South Pacific island after a tsunami strikes, destroying the boy’s village and leaving the girl shipwrecked thousands of miles from home. Together, they come of age as they discard old doctrines to forge a new nation.

“’Nation’ is a play about questions,” says Weaver. “Two young people from very different worlds, who do not speak the same language, realize how little they know about themselves, as well as each other. Their journey is one of the most honest, fragile and destabilizing human stories I have ever directed.”

Mau and Daphne’s story takes the audience around the globe, under the sea and into the home of the gods. The pair confront a tsunami, a shark attack, a near-fatal birth, a warring tribe and the approaching arm of European colonization.

Weaver, who received praise for her MainStage production of “¡Bocón!” last year, tells the story through large-scale puppetry, live drums, dance, shadow and movement, embodied by a 20-member ensemble. The ASU production also pairs the media design talents of Pinholster, who is director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and Branch, a visiting professor.

Pratchett is the author of the global best-selling “Discworld” fantasy series – the first of which, “The Colour of Magic,” was published in 1983. Pratchett’s more than 50 novels have been widely adapted for stage and screen, with millions of fans spawning a cottage industry of related conventions, memorabilia and merchandise. He is the winner of multiple international prizes, including the Carnegie Medal.

In 2010, Pratchett was awarded a knighthood for services to literature. Worldwide sales of his books now stand at 70 million, and they have been translated into 37 languages. “Nation” was first published in the United Kingdom in 2008 and was his first non-“Discworld” book in 12 years.

“Nation” was described by the London Independent as “one of Pratchett’s finest books yet,” while The Guardian characterized it as having “… profound, subtle and original things to say about the interplay between tradition and knowledge, faith and questioning.”

The London Times said, “… this is Terry Pratchett at his most philosophical, with characters and situations sprung from ideas and games with language ... it celebrates the joy of the moment.”

“Nation” received many international awards and honors. The Royal National Theatre performed the theatrical adaptation by Ravenhill in 2009.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., April 4-5 and 10-noon and 2 p.m., April 6 and 13. (Note: the April 6 matinee performance will feature a discussion with cast members that will illuminate the themes in the play, especially for area students. All are welcome).

Parking information for the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, located at 51 E. 10th Street: herbergerinstitute.asu.edu/events/parking.php

Cost is $8-$16. Seniors, ASU faculty, staff and students receive special rates. Herberger Institute students, faculty and staff attend for free but must reserve tickets in advance. Special discounts for groups available.

For more information, contact Herberger Institute box office, 480-965-6447, or School of Film, Dance and Theatre, 480-965-5337.