I just want you to know that I’m so happy you’re my friends.
And I hope we’ll be together until we’re old.
We’ll be freaky old-ladies, always together, holding each other’s hand so we don’t fall. We’ll be like a secret sect with its own language that no one else can understand, members only. And everyone will know that our friendship is above everything, above boys, above children, and above grandchildren…
– Tirzah, from Anat Gov’s BEST FRIENDS
On the fourth day of our IsraDrama experience last year, Ari, Stephen, Jen and I sat down to the first conversation that gave voice to the many women writing and creating theater in Israel. Sitting before us was Anat Gov, looking stylish and sleek in jeans and a short haircut; and Enda Mazya, distinguished and composed in silk and slacks. The two worked as a team in every respect. Not only has Mazya (a playwright in her own right) directed nearly every one of Gov’s popular comedies, but she served as her mouth piece even now, in a relatively intimate conversation. Questions went to Anat, she’d speak quietly in response to Edna, and then Edna would share the response with the gathered audience (all members of the IsraDrama gathering). Mazya (and Anat–via Mazya) explained that it had nothing to do with Gov’s familiarity with English, but was rather a result of her extreme shyness. And–perhaps just as important–it was the way they liked to do this, the method they preferred to speak about their work. I was struck, even a little taken aback, by the intimacy of this relationship. What collaborator would I ever trust to be my mouthpiece? Who could ever know me that well? Who would I ever want to know me that well?
The discussion was led by one of the male conference heads, from whom we’d already heard quite a bit during the first several days of the conference. They were strong voices, these men of Israeli theater, and our moderator faced this discussion with an already familiar assertiveness. The pair talked about their working dynamic; their commitment to left-leaning politics and how that plays into their work; and mostly about the very personal experience that inspired Anat’s most recent play–her ongoing battle with Cancer. The moderator pushed harder, “Tell us about a disagreement you’ve had while working together? Tell us about a fight you’ve had”. Both women smiled cryptically. They didn’t have to go in that direction, and they knew it. “He’s trying to create drama here!” Anat/Edna said with a smile and an under-lying subtext that I couldn’t help but fill in: “We prefer to keep our drama on the stage”.
It was one of my favorite–and for me one of the most revealing–moments of the conference. I’d been looking to better understand Israeli society and gender politics. This exchange said a lot.
We went on to see Gov’s “musical fantasy” about cancer, HAPPY END. Ari wrote of the piece:
We received the very sad new today that Anat Gov’s battle with cancer ended this weekend. Profiles of the writer are online here and here. Theater J mourns this loss, made even more poignant by the recent death of the brilliant Israeli actress Rozina Kambos, who appeared here in Washington, DC as Miriam in RETURN TO HAIFA. Rozina received a much deserved nomination for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident production, making her the first Israeli actress ever to be nominated for a Helen Hayes Award.
From the press release about Rozina’s death:
It is with deep sorrow that Theater J shares the news of the death of Rozina Kambos who passed away after a valiant battle against cancer. Rozina and her husband Dhoron were beloved by the staff and artists of the DCJCC while they were in residence at the J for Rozina’s brilliant performance as Miriam in the Cameri Theatre’s production of Return to Haifa, presented at Theater J in 2011. The Washington theatre community recognized her performance with a nomination for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident production, making her the first Israeli actress ever to be nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. Sinai Peter, the director of Return to Haifa, remarked, “After a long long struggle with her disease, Rozina, our admirable Miriam, went off the stage for ever. Rozina will at last rest in peace. And we’ll miss her so much.”
We’ve been enriched here at Theater J by our experiences with our Israeli colleagues. We’ve learned from their art; admired their chutzpah and outspokenness; and delighted in their spirit. And now, together with our Israeli colleagues, we lament the loss of these two bright lights.