Jerusalem Report

Spirit of the theater

The acclaimed Gesher troupe tackles ‘The Dybbuk,’ the most celebrated play in the history of both Yiddish and Hebrew theater.

Efrat Ben-Tzur is possessed in a Gesher rehearsal
Just 14 days remain before the premier of “The Dybbuk”, and Gesher Theater’s artistic director, Yevgeny Arye, is a man possessed. It’s the second day of rehearsals on the big stage, the cast having moved there from a nearby hangar, and Israel “Sasha” Damidov, the lead actor, still needs a prompter for some of his lines. To make matters worse, the sound technicians are missing their cues, the music is too loud and is drowning out lines of text, and a curtain doesn’t go up fast enough – and this is only the first scene.

Arye chain-smokes, curses in Russian (something about one’s mother) and shouts a rapid-fire “Stop!Stop!” into a microphone when things go wrong, which is just about every other minute. He slams down the box of cigarettes on the table and frantically runs to the stage to demonstrate how he wants things done. He speaks in Russian and someone translates his words into Hebrew for the benefit of the Israeli-born actors. For Arye, schooled in the lofty and highly disciplined traditions of Russian theater, every moment on stage is significant. The award-winning director can sometimes spend hours on a single gesture or a line of text. Rehearsals, emotionally charged affairs in high decibels, can last all night.

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