By Charles Bernsen
Moses will speak this month to the Jewish community of Nashville.
Well, not the actual Moses but rather Larry Gates, who will be playing the great Jewish prophet in an original dramatic reading called “Moses Speaks.” The one-time performance will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 26 at the Gordon Jewish Community Center.
“Moses Speaks” is the creation of Dr. Jerry Klein of Nashville, who said the work was inspired by America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler, a best-selling author, New York Times columnist and writer/host of the PBS miniseries “Walking the Bible.”
Feiler is not involved in “Moses Speaks,” which was written and is being produced entirely by Klein. But like Feiler’s 2009 book, the dramatic reading seeks to show how Moses and the Exodus story of renewal and redemption have inspired Americans throughout the nation’s history.
“The book opened my eyes to the profound influence of Moses on American history,” Klein said, “and I wanted to find a way to share that and how it made me feel.”
To do that, Klein is using a format he calls a “staged reading,” which consists of a series of monologues by nine costumed historical figures and icons, starting with Moses himself played by Gates. During each monologue, a series of images will be projected on a screen as a kind of illustration accompanying the speaker’s words.
Other “speakers” include the early American colonist William Bradford (played by Bob Loflin), George Washington (played by Ralph Levy), the Liberty Bell (played by Felicia Gates), the Statue of Liberty (played by Mimi Klein, Jerry Klein’s wife), Abraham Lincoln (played by Irwin Venick), Martin Luther King (played by Bobby Daniels) and Elie Wiesel (played by Howard Snyder).
The idea, Klein said, is that the characters “will tell how in their own time, Moses and the Exodus and persecution of the Israelites related to their own experiences in meeting and overcoming prejudice and persecution.”
Klein, who began working on the script almost 10 months ago, will be the narrator, and Ruth Klar will direct. Including technical and logistic support, about 20 people are involved in the production.
Klein, 85, a native of Nashville and retired dentist, has written and produced three similar dramatic readings at the GJCC. The first, “The Talking Trees of the Hermitage,” was inspired as he sat on a bench during a visit to the home of Andrew Jackson with some out of town guests.
“I saw all those trees and I started thinking about what they might say about Jackson and his time after the presidency,” said Klein. His other productions have focused on the Liberty Bell and Theodore Herzl.
Admission to “Moses Speaks” is free, although donations will be accepted. •