APT Preview: Nat Turner in Jerusalem

Nicole Hanson, Intern

This past week, I was provided the opportunity to watch the American Players Theatre’s performance of Nathan Alan Davis’ play “Nat Turner in Jerusalem” directed by Gavin Lawrence. Mediated through Zoom with strategic use of sound effects and props, this play portrays the conversations between the leader of the largest slave rebellion in American history, Nat Turner, and attorney, Thomas Gray, the night before Nat Turner’s execution. 

The story takes place in Turner’s prison cell in Jerusalem, Virginia, and is performed by a small cast, consisting only of La Shawn Banks as Nat Turner, and Nate Burger as Thomas Gray and the prison guard. While Zoom tends to be more limiting than a stage, this medium fits well with the content of this play. As it takes place in one room, and only has two characters, this format fits the intimate discussions between these characters, as well as with Turner’s monologues. 

Through the dialogue of this play, we learn about the life and philosophy of Nat Turner. Themes of religion, race, morals, ethics, life, and death are explored in the conversations between Turner and Gray. As a black man in the 19th century, Turner illuminates the inequality faced by black people in the United States to Gray, a white man, and his reasoning for his rebellion

 “Nat Turner in Jerusalem” will be show on PBS Wisconsin Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. 

Look for our full review of “Nat Turner in Jerusalem” in next week’s Valley Sentinel, as well as a preview of “Smart People.”