Fun in a 360-degree panorama

The 360° Theater in the Public Space Festival will turn Jerusalem into a stage

By SHANNA FULD
August 12, 2019 22:34
Fun in a 360-degree panorama

THE MOSAIC group’s production of ‘Ma’avar’ will be featured at the festival along with a lot of street performance theater. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The 360° Theater in a Public Space Festival in Jerusalem will keep you on your toes. This is especially true of the theatrical performances hosted on the dimpled Jerusalem limestone that grounds the Tower of David Museum.

The fourth annual festival kicks off Tuesday and will represent people from all four corners of the Holy City. The festival is site-specific, in which plays and musicals are not performed on a stage but, rather, within the parameters of an interesting space. Writers, directors and actors who have accepted the challenge find creative ways to engage with their locations and the diverse spectators participating.

Orthodox Jewish girls will perform for an all-female audience, Arab families and gypsy clans can listen to musicians from their communities, and Ethiopian youth will be portrayed on stage telling their story as well.

The three-day long, 17-show festival will host more than 100 performers in three different settings around Jerusalem – at the Tower of David museum grounds, the Valley of the Cross and Liberty Bell Park.

The show’s artistic director and founder, Adam Yakin, focuses on inclusion. His goal is to provide theater that will “sink into the bones” of its spectators, bringing them into the plot and creating a dialogue between groups that might not otherwise converse.

“Even between theater schools in Jerusalem – the students don’t go to see what the other shows do. If you’re religious or traditional, if you’re Arab you go to Arab productions, and if you’re ultra-Orthodox [Jews] – you stick with them,” Yakin explains.

The director is working to change that. The first day of the festival, falling on the second day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, will focus on togetherness. Yakin expects families who are spending the day celebrating in the sun will come to see the shows, some of which will be performed in a way that anyone can understand them. Two of the shows will be performed using only nonverbal means, and two shows will be mixed between Arabic and Hebrew.

One of the interesting groups represented on the first festival day comprises gypsies. The Tzeadim Ensemble was formed 10 years ago, and most of its members were just 10 years old at its inception. This community of Arabs in east Jerusalem is thought to have emigrated from Gaza years ago. They will be performing under the advisement of band manager Omar Jaber from the Alpert Music Center in the Hinnom Valley. He says many of the students he works with come from broken homes, and it is through the music that the ensemble is able to lift them out of their daily struggles.

This is the second year Jaber is performing in the festival, which he says is special because it brings Arabic and Jewish families together to listen to music and even dance with one another. Jaber tells The Jerusalem Post that he was surprised at the big turnout last year and hopes this year will bring even more spectators, as the show runs in conjunction with the festive Islamic holiday.

“Music doesn’t discriminate between people. Jews, Arabs – it connects them. I hope a lot of people will come. I am waiting for them,” Jaber says.

But before his ensemble begins to play, guests will be able to learn a measure or two using household kitchen items. This is just one of the fun craft ideas the band will offer guests at the show. The ensemble plays at 5 p.m. in Liberty Bell Park on August 13.

SONIA SOUDRY is the director of a theater group called Psifas (Mosaic). She works to train haredi Jewish women and make them into theatrical stars. According to Halacha, women are not allowed to dance in front of men, to maintain modesty. This is not an obstacle for Soudry. The French-born thespian says she can’t live without theater, and that while it is important to keep tradition, it is also necessary to progress and move forward with art. At first, families were a little hesitant, but after learning that Soudry herself keeps all the laws of modesty, haredi families began to believe and join in her vision of theater.

Soudry’s latest production is called Ma’avar (or Passage in English), and will be performed in front of a female-only crowd. While there are antidiscrimination laws that prevent creating performances for only one type of people, Yakin says once the show is advertised for women only, men typically respect the request.

Ma’avar is about a group of women who are stuck in a purgatory hallway before entering the gates of hell. Soudry describes the play as a dramatic tragedy. While she usually performs shows on a traditional stage, Soudry says this event was a healthy challenge. Holes and uneven stones in the Jerusalem ground threw unforeseen difficulty into practices, but at the end of the day, the most important part about the show for her is leaving an impact on the viewers.

“I am afraid [of what the audience will think]. I am happy and I am afraid. If I was not afraid, it would be dangerous for me, because that would mean that what I have to say is not very important,” Soudry explains.

While Soudry says she is nervous about the reaction from the crowd, she also says she is ready to receive any emotion that comes out of the showing, and that no matter the result, she plans to continue writing and directing theater. In her eyes, writing a show is like carrying a baby. And she’s due this week.

Following the execution, Soudry hopes the Tower of David Museum will keep her act on board. It shows Thursday, August 15, at 7:15 p.m.

Shows are mostly free (except for some on the last day that cost NIS 20-50) and run from August 13 to 15 starting at 5 p.m. each night. All shows are within walking distance of one another.
For more information, visit
https://www.360jlm.co.il


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