by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Olympia Family Theater premieres a new play by local actor, director and playwright Christian Carvajal based on ancient Muslim legends of the Mullah, or master, Nasreddin. This entertaining play for all ages tells the tale of when three wise men challenge Nasreddin to answer three impossible questions. While Nasreddin tries to gather his wits, the gathered people tell stories of the Mullah and folk tales from the Muslim world. In this production, the stories are told by a dozen local actors including Tom Sanders as the mayor and Keith Eisner, Jack House and Chuck Meares as the wise men. Jon Lee plays Mullah Nasreddin.
Director Ted Ryle said, “Nasreddin, folk hero of Sufi Muslim lore, wise fool and spiritual jester, invites us to accept and enjoy the absurdity of our little selves and the folly of pretense. His learning stories have been passed down from parents to children across the Muslim world over the centuries. While ‘his’ mausoleum still stands in his ‘birthplace’ of Akşehir, Turkey — a large, padlocked gate protecting a building with no walls — it is questioned whether the ‘man’ actually existed. Regardless, the stories live on, perhaps with some important and timely light to shine on the western world. OFT is thrilled and honored to present this collection of Mullah moments, along with several other Muslim folk tales from the east, both middle and far.”
National politics drove Carvajal to write the script. He explains, “The 2016 election exposed a grotesque tumor of Islamophobia, even in Olympia, but that inspired me to visit a mosque for the first time in my life. I was told I’d find terrorists there. Instead, I found justifiably terrified parents and children. Even so, I was greeted with nothing but warm hospitality, humor and love. I resolved then and there to do what I could to celebrate the diversity of this community, especially our Muslim neighbors and friends.
“We’re taught to see Muslims as humorless and violently defensive of beliefs we know little about. Yet in Mullah Nasreddin I discovered a character, known and loved throughout the Muslim world, who challenged his religion via comedy, parables and paradox. He reminded me of geniuses I admire from my own family’s faith tradition.”
3 Impossible Questions
Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2-18
(360) 570-1638 | Olympia Family Theater