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In Twelfth Night, lovelorn Duke Orsino says, "If music be the food of love, play onâ€¦" You bet!
The Gesher Theater's opening production of its 2008/'09 season was a musical version of that delicious comedy by Shakespeare, and the music is by the late, great Irving Berlin. Tunes like "Blue Skies," "Dancin' Cheek to Cheek" and "Puttin' On the Ritz" keep the bard's story of love, shipwrecks, mistaken identities and mischief rolling right along. It opened September 21.
The rest of the two-year play roster includes an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, a Love Story (November 28), the story of hapless Herman Broder and the three women in his life; The Good Soldier Tchonkin (January 10), an experimental theater piece by admired Russian author Vladimir Weinovitch, a comedy that tips its hat to The Good Soldier Schweik; Harold Pinter's very black comedy The Birthday Party, directed by Oded Kottler and in honor of Tel Aviv's centenary.
In addition, Gesher will also offer a musical evening called Crickets. Meanwhile, Micha Loewensohn will direct Great Aunt Shlomzion, which is the story of a wealthy and snobby Russian woman who came on the first aliya. Based on the novel by Yoram Kaniuk, her ultimately sad story spans that of a growing city and the 20th century.
Gesher founding artistic director Yevgeny Arye directs Enemies, Crickets and yet another of the late Hanoch Levin's unpublished plays, The Emperor Gok, the story (with a nod or two to Hamlet and Oedipus Rex) of Gok's life from birth to death.
Putting on the Levin play may illustrate the artistic freeze creeping up on Gesher that Arye deplored at a recent press conference.
Staging a Levin play means an almost certain commercial success, the kind of success necessary for any local theater's survival. This financial need for success, Arye pointed out, "robs us of the privilege to take risks and that is dangerous for art.
"Gesher was created nearly 20 years ago as an immigrant theater, as something new, exotic and with an innovative approach to theater."
Gesher today, Arye intimated, has lost its privileged position and is being asked to become a play-making churn like the rest of Israel's repertory theaters.
"We should put on plays," Arye continued, "only if we can adhere to our artistic principles, so we're trying, pushing ahead anyway."
Gesher general manager Lena Kreindlin said that "in order to work properly, to effect what makes Gesher special, we need another NIS 2 million annually."
Though she emphasized that both the Tel Aviv Municipality and the Arts Administration were "doing their utmost" to support the theater, government cutbacks in the last two years have forced Gesher to retrench by NIS 2.8m., with NIS 1.5m. of that in salary cuts.
Fortunately, the Friends of Gesher association has managed to increase annual donations from NIS 400,000 in 2006 to NIS 2m. this year. This year's total budget is NIS 22m., of which NIS 12m. will, hopefully, be earned income.
Kreindlin also announced the appointment of attorney Eli Zohar to replace outgoing board chairman Zvika Zamir, who for 17 years "tirelessly promoted Gesher's interests."
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