Beit Lessin offers a new crop

Beit Lessin will present the 10th annual Setting the Stage series of productions and staged readings.

Beit Lessin will present the 10th annual Setting the Stage series of productions and staged readings over the weekends of September 3-5 and 11-12. Routine? Not quite. Israelis are still somewhat self-conscious about their plays and playwriting. Locals have been deliberately and vigorously at it only over the past 20 years or so. Even in the late 1980s, a new local play in the rep theater's seasonal lineups was more lip-service than genuine commitment. But that is the case no longer, and the credit in part goes to the Beit Lessin Theater, which, for years, has been a very vocal proponent of local plays and playwrights. Setting the Stage is part of that, presenting 124 new plays (and their authors, of course), 50 of which continued on, either in fringe, independently or with the rep theaters. Two of this year's full productions were scholarship-winning staged readings last year: They are Who Knows Amos Hefer by Tuvia Tzipin, in which a high-school teacher is caught between a rock and a hard place. To discredit a charge of sexual harassment by a female students, he must disclose his homosexuality. The other is Guest Worker, the first play by Rachel Gil in which a Filipina caregiver is wrongfully accused of infanticide. There are nine staged readings this time, including Mark of Cain, in which a protective mother goes up against an ambitious cop when her son is accused of vandalism; and With a Wink that explores father-son relationships. There are also visitors - the Heidelberg Municipal Theater with which Beit Lessin has an agreement to participate in its new play festival next year, and Linga, also from Germany, that orchestrates a giant movement happening involving the entire audience. The series opens with Jaffa Pictures, a breezy and tuneful look at Jaffa types. Isn't it time local theaters stopped calling every new play by a local playwright "a new Israeli play?" What else would it be? A new Ruritanian play?