Cast of Shakespeare in the Park.
(photo credit: YITZ WOOLF)
One of literature’s legendary plays will unfold on the lawns of Jerusalem's Bloomfield Gardens when Theater in the Rough premieres their first showing of Hamlet: In Motion on August 8. The mother-son duo of Beth Steinberg (artistic director) and Natan Skop (producer) present the Shakespeare tragedy in various locations in the park as the audience follows along, free of charge.
Hamlet in Motion
“Hamlet is sort of a cliche in a good sense, in that you studied it in high school or encountered it somewhere, and now you can experience it in this setting,” said Skop, who is playing Hamlet.
Steinberg and Skop founded Theater in the Rough several years after they made aliyah from New York in 2006. Natan was still in the army, and after performing with the veteran acting group JEST, he began looking for something new.
“I came to my mom and she said, ‘Let’s do Shakespeare, running around like we saw in Central Park. It’ll be great.’ So we started in Liberty Park and moved here the second year.
The first year we invited our friends and we expected 50 people to show up. Two hundred people showed up. We didn’t even know where to stand on stage,” Skop said Hamlet
is one of the most famous works of literature of all time. Steinberg, her husband Ira Skop (who plays two characters in the play) and veteran actress Annabelle Landgarten cut the script nearly in half so that its two-hour running time appeals to families.
“You know as a New Yorker and as a homeschooling parent, I really valued affordable theater because I was a theater person. But I also valued being able to find things for the kids and the family and myself,” said Steinberg.
The intimacy of the park allows the cast to “break the fourth wall” and interact with the audience, says actor Simon Montagu.
“What I love about the park is that we’re in the audiences’ faces all the time. It gives us an opportunity to give scenes directly to members of the audience and get them involved. What I also like is that we have a very young audience. Every performance we have a number of kids who are seeing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Montagu, who made aliyah from London in 1982 and is playing King Claudius.
Beth says that one of the most rewarding outcomes of putting on the play is how it unites an audience.
“There’s all the people that find out about us... Then there’s the people that engage with us in the park. For example, it is not Elul yet in the Jewish calendar, which means that the more religious crowd are now relaxing, having fun post-Tisha B’Av before they go back to school, or whenever their calendar moves towards the High Holidays. They are not normally going to performances but they sit down in the park and watch.
We come in contact a lot with Arab families and kids, who often have pretty good English. Theater brings people together and I really value that. We always want them to enjoy it and feel comfortable with that,” said Beth.Although play is free, Theater in the Rough kindly suggests a donation of 35 shekels to cover their expenses.
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