Habimah is home again, at last.
When the curtain rises on Monday evening
(November 21) on Hanoch Levin’s Morris Shimel playing on the mainstage in Rovina
Hall, the Habimah National Theater will take possession of its newly refurbished
home after five years of nomadic existence in Tel Aviv.
once again be a cultural focus, as was the original intent, but this time within
a 21st-century context,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said at Sunday’s press tour
of the theater, adding defiantly “I think that [architect] Ram Carmi has created
a most beautiful space.”
While on the outside much of Habimah looks a bit
like a sparkly, white fortress, inside it is all light and sweeping spaces,
except for the passageways connecting the various theaters, which have low
ceilings, a bit like a subway tunnel.
Tel Avivians have become accustomed
to the vast new wraparound glass windows that surround Habimah’s main lobby. The
new front encloses the original iconic columns that characterized the entrance
when the theater opened in the 1930s. Now, painted white, they soar the entire
height of the lobby atrium, which is indeed a thing of beauty.
version of Habimah is open to the outside, both on its Tarsat Street side and
along the length of the new public space – replacing the old parking lot – that
complements both Habimah and the Mann Auditorium, itself now undergoing
renovations slated for completion in October 2012.
“The building is now
part of the urban experience because those outside can see the activity within
[the lobbies], and those inside are still connected to the city outside,” Huldai
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The new Habimah now has four playing spaces. Rovina, Messkin and
Bertonov halls have all been thoroughly redone with new seating – made locally –
new color schemes, up-to-the-minute technology and a new intimacy.
Hall now has 930 dark blue seats. The steeply raked balcony is now closer to the
stage and the stage itself has been extended, at the expense of the orchestra
pit. An orchestra, if required, will now have its own space in the rear, or be
on the stage itself.
And, unprecedented in Israel, Rovina has six VIP
boxes, two of them right next to the stage.
Moreover, tucked into an
alcove near the hall will be Mishkan Rovina, featuring a dressing room and
living room and etched glass portraits of nine Habimah founders.
320-seat Messkin Hall, with rich aubergine seats, now also has a balcony,
bringing the audience closer to the stage.
The basement Bertonov Theater
retains its three-sided shape, but it too has been redone in a sort of
yellow-blue with another exit “making it a safer space,” Habimah CEO Odelia
Next to it is Habimah 4, a two-story café-theater created
in what was the former carpentry shop. It is designed for intimate presentations
of theater, music and poetry.
Before the renovation, both Bertonov and
Messkin had separate, outside entrances. Now all the theater’s spaces are
inside, interconnected with handsome staircases and parquet flooring
There are two elevators, one on each side of the main lobby,
but they are tucked away with not much space between wall and elevator
The renovation cost a total of NIS 105 million with NIS 57.5m.
provided by the Tel Aviv Municipality and the rest coming from the
“It’s entirely untrue that there have been massive cost
overruns,” Huldai insisted. “We have remained on budget but the scope of the work was extended beyond the more
modest renovation planned originally,” the refurbishing of two
Other shows going up are Amoz Oz’s The Same Sea
at Messkin next
Sunday, and at Bertonov, in early December, a new play by Avraham Raz starring
Leah Kenig, Not in Daytime and Not at Night
. The official inauguration will take
place in January.
In a niche just off the lobby sits the original granite
cornerstone laid in 1935. It was discovered during excavations for the current
What goes around comes around.
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