Jennifer Mendenhall Writes from the ISRA-Drama conference:
Continuing to keep track of the plays and the venues:
Friday in Haifa, we saw Argentina by Boaz Gaon, directed by Sinai Peter, at Kriger Hall. This is a Haifa Theatre production about a young woman’s search for the truth about her father’s disappearance in Argentina. The play deals with the Jewish community, some of whom were active in fighting the repressive regime responsible for “Los desaparecidos”, and the involvement of the Israeli ambassador in negotiations with the dictator.
Next up, Ullysses on Bottles by Gilad Evron at Haifa Theatre. An imaginative story about a man imprisoned by the government after he was caught trying to float on a raft he made from plastic bottles, down the coast and into Gaza, in order to bring Russian literature to the Palestinian children living there. The issue of human rights and the importance of literature are central to this play.
In the evening, as it was the Sabbath, we went to an Arabic theatre in Haifa, Almidan, to see In Spitting Dstance by Taher Najib. A one man show about living under occupation in Ramallah, both moving and amusing, and certainly educational.
Saturday we saw Happy Ending by Anat Gov at the Cameri Theatre. A comedy with music about cancer. Features women dealing with various types of cancer, oblivious doctors, and an actress’ decision to refuse treatment. An interesting observation is that we in The United States seem far more at ease talking about cancer than people in Israel do. Thus the play lands differently here.
Stephen and I walked over to the beach between shows, and we saw the ruins of the nightclub at the Dolphinarium, which was bombed in 2001. 21 teenagers were killed, and many more wounded. The building is an arresting sight, and a reminder of the violence people in this land have experienced.
In the evening we saw Rachele’s Wedding, by Savyon Liebrecht. This is a Beit-Lessin Theatre production, but we saw it at Herzliya Performing Arts Center. If a play is successful in Israel, it will be booked by different venues across the country. These are often huge auditoriums that seat a thousand people. Most of these large productions use microphones, either on the floor at the front of the stage, of a body mic on the actors. Rachele’s Wedding is a second generation play about the daughters of a Holocaust survivor from Poland, now living in Israel. The oldest daughter’s new fiancé turns out to be the nephew of a kapo responsible for the death of the father’s little brother in Auschwitz. Many people in Israel are the children of survivors, and have grown up with traumatized parents who cannot speak of their experiences.
Sunday morning we went to Nachmani Hall, a venue used by the Itim Ensemble, a group associated with the Cameri Theatre, to see Sinners by Joshua Sobol. A hooded figure is buried from the waist down, and a man is gathering stones. As the play unfolds, we learn about the relationship between an older woman and her younger male lover, both in arranged marriages to other people. Features passion, poetry, a rendition of “Misty” and the expectation of a stoning.
In the afternoon we went to Tzavta, a venue in the basement of a shopping mall, to see My Father is not a Bird by Shahar Pinkas, based on a short story by Bruno Schultz. The production was part of Exposure festival, which features small, independent and often adventurous pieces of theatre. In the play a young boy struggles with his father’s gradual transformation into a bird, and the responses of the family. Highly imaginative staging and props, including a whirling trunk and handfuls of feathers. Big clean up job afterwards.
In the evening many participants saw Hanoch Levin’s The Suitcase Packers at the Cameri, but a small group of us went to see Dogs by Ido Bornstein, a Theatercan production. Again, a fringe event, independent of the larger theatres and any association with them. A group of men, including two Palestinian brothers, are persuaded to rehearse a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, or Rami and Yulie. Features plastic buckets and trash bags used inventively and decoratively, a male pregnancy, violence, no surtitles and no Juliet. One of the most exciting and joyful productions of the week.
That’s all for now, it was a great week, I will write some more pieces soon.