PRESENTATION 3: THE JUDAIC NATURE OF ISRAELI THEATRE

ONCE THERE WAS A HASSID | IN THE PRIME OF HER LIFE | KING OF DOGS | DOING HIS WILL

Editor: Hagit Rehavi Nikolayevsky

Moderator: Dr. Sarit Cofman-Simhon  

The panel will engage with the encounter between Judaism and Israeliness in Israeli theatre as it is expressed in the following plays: Once There Was a Hassid by Dan Almagor (Yiddishpiel Theatre), In The Prime of Her Life by S.Y. Agnon, adapted by Shahar Pinkas (Jerusalem Khan Theatre), King of Dogs by Sholem Asch, adapted by Irad Rubinstein and Yoav Shutan-Goshen (Beit Lessin Theatre), and Doing His Will by Motti Lerner (Habima National Theatre).
During the panel discussion songs from the productions will be presented and video clips will be screened. Additionally, the panel will be hosting Prof. Nitza Ben-Dov, Dr. Dan Almagor, artistic director of the Jerusalem Khan Theatre Udi Ben Moshe, director Irad Rubinstein, dramaturge and director Avishai Milstein, and playwright Motti Lerner.

ONCE THERE WAS A HASSID

The Yiddishpiel Theatre

By Dan Almagor

Directed by Shuki Wagner

A Jewish classic. In rhythmical, colorful theatre language, interlaced with humor, the audience meets the Hassidic world of the past, with a wink to present-day Israel. Once There Was a Hassid is an Israeli musical based on Hassidic songs, stories, and melodies that were sung in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and premiered in 1968. The name of the musical is borrowed from a well-known liturgical poem traditionally recited at the end of the Sabbath, and relates the hardships of a needy Jew who gains salvation from Elijah the Prophet.
The materials were written and edited by Dan Almagor who collected Hassidic songs, stories, and melodies originating in the folklore of Jewish towns in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The existential hardships of the simple Jew, his relationship with God, his connection with the rabbi, and the sorrow of exile emerging from the songs and stories are interlaced with melancholy that is also attended by optimism and faith in God.

 

Dan Almagor
Songwriter, playwright, translator, and a literature and Hebrew song researcher. Almagor has written, translated, and adapted more than one hundred plays, musicals, and performances for the Hebrew stage, and has written and translated hundreds of songs for singers and bands, as well as for films and musicals. Almagor has translated classic and modern plays by Euripides, Shakespeare, Brecht, Miller, Simon, Ayckbourn, Cooney, and others. He has edited and hosted dozens of radio and television programs on the history of Hebrew song, and published articles in Israel and abroad on literature, the history of Hebrew drama, Hebrew song, the history of pre-state Israel, and more.

 

Shuki Wagner
Directing, editing, movement. Born in Israel, Shuki served as a singer and actor in the Armored Corps Band during his military service. He studied Theatre Arts at Tel Aviv University, and ballet at Bat-Dor Dance Company and The Dance Centre in London. Shuki then embarked on an acting career in The Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth. Since then, he has directed dozens of productions in various theatres, including Habima National Theatre, Beit Lessin Theatre, and Haifa Theatre, alongside productions at the Yoram Loewenstein Performing Arts Studio, Beit Zvi School for the Performing Arts, Hasifriya Theatre, and others. He serves as a director in the IDF Theatre, and has directed numerous musical productions.

 

IN THE PRIME OF HER LIFE

The Jerusalem Khan Theatre

By Shahar Pinkas | Based on a story by S.Y Agnon

Directed by Shir Goldberg

Tirza’s mother, Leah, passed away in the prime of her life after suffering from a heart ailment for many years. The mother’s death leaves a void in the lives of everyone around her, especially her thirteen-year old daughter Tirza. Sometime after her mother’s death, Tirza finds out about the ill-fated love story between her mother and Akavia Mazal. This discovery rattles Tirza’s world and sends her on a journey during which she herself will fall in love with Akavia Mazal.
“Thanks to a sensitive adaptation and excellent acting, [the show] expresses a wide range of emotions and is full of nuance… The adaptation has maximal sensitivity to the drama, as well as to the beauty of Agnon’s text, which is highlighted in such a subtle, exact, and true way” (Nano Shabtai, Haaretz)
“An intelligent combination of sparse text conserving the Agnon language alongside dynamic and modern directing… a beautiful and intelligent show…” (Shai Bar Yaacov, Yedioth Aharonoth)

 

Shahar Pinkas
Dramaturge at Habima National Theatre. Shahar holds an MA in Directing from the Department of Theatre Arts, Tel Aviv University. Writing and adapting: The Promised Land (in collaboration with Shay Pitowski, Habima Theatre), Meat, Ladies and Gentlemen (Herzliya Theatre Ensemble), My Father is Not a Bird (Israel Festival), Walk(wo)man (Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater), Tehilah, The Overcoat, Kinneret Kinneret, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, In The Prime of Her Life (Jerusalem Khan Theatre), A Man Does Not Die in Vain, The Lover, Father Goriot, A Simple Story, Alone in Berlin (Habima Theatre), He Walked Through the Fields (Beit Lessin Theatre), and You Don’t Fight a Duel Nowadays (Beer Sheva Theatre; Rosenblum Prize for the Performing Arts, 2014). Shahar won the Israeli Theatre Award for best playwright in 2014 for A Man Does Not Die in Vain.

 

Shir Goldberg
In-house director at the Jerusalem Kahn Theatre. Shir holds an MA in Directing from the Department of Theatre Arts, Tel Aviv University. Works include: My Father is Not a Bird (Israel Festival), Don Giovani (Buchmann-Mehta School of Music), Meat, Ladies and Gentlemen (Herzliya Theatre Ensemble), Be Beautiful Cabaret (Israel Festival), Walk(wo)man (Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater, 2006), Tehilah, The Overcoat, Kinneret Kinneret, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, In The Prime of Her Life (Jerusalem Khan Theatre), A Man Does Not Die in Vain, The Lover, Father Goriot, A Simple Story (Habima Theatre),The Adventures of Odysseus (Gesher Theatre), and You Don’t Fight a Duel Nowadays (Beer Sheva Theatre). Shir won the Israel Festival Award for most promising director for Be Beautiful Cabaret in 2006, and the award for best original play at Encounter Festival in Czechoslovakia in 2007 for the same play. She is the recipient of the Rosenblum Prize for the Performing Arts, 2014.

KING OF DOGS

Beit Lessin Theatre

Based on the Yiddish novel Motke Ganev (Motke the Thief) by Sholem Asch.

Adapted by Irad Rubinstein and Yoav Shutan-Goshen | Directed by Irad Rubinstein

Motke is a Jewish anti-hero. To escape from a life of poverty in the town he joins a traveling circus, murders one of its people in cold blood and steals his privileged identity, establishes himself in Warsaw, and becomes the king of the night and the brothels. When he falls in love with the Jewish Hannaleh, he realizes that to become part of the Jewish community he will have to relinquish his “achievements”. In a moment of intimacy, he confesses to his beloved his stolen identity, and in a moment of weakness she “tells on him” to her parents – and he is hanged. The present stage adaptation shifts away from the folkloristic-sentimental Diaspora Jewish play, and focuses on Motke’s drama: the conflict between identity and success and community belonging. Motke’s efforts to escape his identity cannot stand the test of his desire to unite with the love of his life and begin the next chapter of his tumultuous life.

Irad Rubinstein is an actor, stage director and writer. Two times winner of the Israel Theatre Award (Director of the Year) for his work in Romeo and Juliet at Beer Sheva Theatre (2015), and King of Dogs at Beit Lessin Theatre (2017).
Winner of the Yosef Milo Prize for directing Othello at the Cameri Theater (2018).

Winner of the Israeli Fringe Theatre Award for his adaptation of Ward No. 6. He studied acting for both theatre and cinema, and is currently on the faculty of the Yoram Loewenstein Acting Studio. Directing credits include: 1984 and Coriolanus at Habima National Theatre; The tunnel, Mr. Vertigo and The Big Notebook at Gesher Theatre; Othello at The Cameri Theatre, King of Dogs and A Mountain Will Not Move at Beit Lessin Theatre; Romeo and Juliet and The Green Mile at Beer Sheva Theatre. Writing and adapting credits include: Liaison Dangeureuses, Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands, The Golem, The Green Mile, Mr. Vertigo, and King of Dogs.

DOING HIS WILL

Habima National Theatre

By Motti Lerner | Based on a book by Esti Weinstein

Directed by Aya Kaplan

An original play based on the autobiography of Esti Weinstein, a descendent of a Gur Hasidic family, a mother of seven daughters, who refused to live by the strict marital rules of the Gur Hasidic community. After divorcing her husband she was forced to cut ties with six of her seven daughters. She went on a desperate struggle for her right to meet with them. When she realized that she has no chance of winning this battle, she gave up on her life. Before committing suicide, she published her book in which she described her turbulent life story, centered on her attempts to live according to her free will in a society that forced her to live according to the wills of others. “Do everything so that people will hear about the book and read it!” She wrote in her suicide note that was discovered after her death.
“With a wonderful combination of writing, directing, acting, and all the elements around it, this could be defined as one of the best shows of recent times” (David Rosenthal, Walla!)
“A sharp and moving social drama, which reminds us that good theatre can provoke anger and desire for change” (Shai Bar Yaacov, Yedioth Aharonoth)
“A portrait of human pain that stays with you long after the show is over” (Orin Weinberg, Ynet)

 

Motti Lerner, Playwright, often deals with political issues. Among his plays are: Kastner, Pangs of the Messiah, Paula, and Pollard, produced by the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv; The Admission in JaffaTheater, Exile in Jerusalem and Passing The Love of Women at Habima National Theatre, Autumn at the Beit Lessin Theatre, Hard Love at Haifa Theatre, and The Hastening of The End in the Khan Theatre, in Jerusalem.
Among his productions outside of Israel: The Murder of Isaac at Heilbronn Theater, Germany, and in Center stage Theater, Baltimore, Benedictus at Golden Thread Theater, San Francisco, and Theater J, Washington, Paulus at Silk Road theater, Chicago, Pangs of the Messiah, and The Admission in Theater J, DC, After the War in Mosaic Theater in DC and Hard Love in The Actors Company Theatre in New York. He wrote the books According to Chekhov and The Playwright’s Purpose. He is a recipient of the best play award (1985), the Israeli Motion Picture Academy award for the best TV drama in 1995 and in 2004, The Israeli Prime Minister Award (1994) and the Landau prize (2014).

Performance rights: Motti Lerner, playwright
motti_lerner@hotmail.com

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