The good news is that the Israel Festival Jerusalem gets more Israeli from year to year. Further good news is that this year’s festival focuses on Jerusalem and its native-born creative artists of all stripes.
The Israel Festival takes place from May 29 to June 6 at the Jerusalem Theater, and at various venues around the city, including the refurbished Bet Mazya in the city center, named for the physician who built it more than a century ago.
Let’s start with dance, and ex-Jerusalemite choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother, his first full-length work, and “my most Israeli,” he says.
It’s a multi-image, multidisciplinary work that confronts the forces of destruction.
An Israeli/US collaboration is The Gate of Winds, jointly choreographed by Amir Kolben and Margaret Jenkins.
It deals with limitations, barriers and bridges. Also in the program is Time’s Bones, a medley from past choreographies by Jenkins. To round out dance, there’s Ballet Malandain Biarritz, which is performing choreographer Thierry Malandain’s (b. 1959) highly personal takes on Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet to music by, respectively, Prokofiev and Berlioz.
Moving to theater, there are 11 Israeli entries, two from abroad, and a surprise.
The surprise is A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, to be read by French superstars Anouk Aimée and Gerard Depardieu (in French with Hebrew surtitles).
The visitors are the returning Marjanishvili Theater from Tiblisi, Georgia, with Moliere’s Tartuffe, directed and designed by the theater’s artistic director, Levan Tzuladze; and the festival debut of the Emilia Romagna Company from Italy with After the Battle, a multi-image, multi-disciplinary piece by Pippo Delbono that takes a sword to prejudice and draws inspiration from society’s outcasts, one of whom has now worked with Delbono for several years. Delbono (b. 1959) is also a prize-winning documentary film-maker.
Back home, playwright, poet and director Yossi Izraeli won’t sit on his laurels. He has set texts taken from the writings of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav to music by Beethoven in Bratslav-Beethoven- Bratslav, offering, as he puts it, treasures from a spiritual giant without the strictures of orthodoxy; a piece that is both theater and study-hall.
The second show, From Fly and Spider, is an interdisciplinary exploration into the mystery that is creation. Its creators are actor, singer, teacher and rabbi Baruch Brenner, and Rina Wertheim, the founding artistic director of the Vertigo dance company/cultural laboratory.
The hero of the tale is an autocratic monarch who falls asleep while watching a spider and a fly on the pages of a book. The play is his dream, possibly.
And the unique and avant-garde Clipa Theater is back for the seventh time with Forever/Beyond, an interdisciplinary, image-driven, site-specific work to be performed at sunset at the roofed entryway to the Israel Museum.
Other theater includes Save Your Love – Part I, a performance art piece on the nature of love and partnership inspired by life in a 35 sq.m. Berlin apartment; Protesters – Women’s Poetry in Israel created by the ever-interesting Theater Group Jerusalem; three short pieces by the lively and innovative Incubator, including the English-language premiere of The City, a rap musical.
The festival also hosts the 13 plays of Center Stage, Jerusalem’s monodrama festival, and for kids there’s Heidi, a musical by Ido Ricklin based on Joanna Spyri’s beloved book about a little girl who lets nothing get her down.
As usual, there’s all sorts of free stuff at the Jerusalem Theater and at the Old Train Station. And they do it all on some NIS 11 million.