Beit Lessin sets newcomers' stage

"Israeli plays are the beating heart of Israeli theater," says Beit Lessin General Manager Tzippi Pines.

Setting the Stage, Beit Lessin's ninth annual revelation of new plays by local playwrights, is bigger this year. From September 11 through 13 at ZOA House in Tel Aviv, there will be 10 staged readings, a musical special to open the proceedings and peer-awarded prizes for those who are part of four other full productions. "Israeli plays are the beating heart of Israeli theater," says Beit Lessin General Manager Tzippi Pines, who has positioned her theater as a nurturing cradle for new playwrights. Those whose plays are chosen for Setting the Stage benefit from workshops, as well as dramaturgical and artistic support. The opening special is called Broadway, Corner of Frishman and is a 50-minute staged medley from 60 years of local musicals such as Yehonatan Gefen's beloved The 16th Sheep. The other four productions include Shadow of a Woman by Shirli Oded Doron, based on the agonies suffered by abused women; and Tania - New Immigrant by Orli Rubinstein-Katzap, centered around immigrants from the FSU trying to make it in their new land. The best of these productions becomes part of the Beit Lessin repertoire, as did Ben Levin's wickedly funny Weekend with Tom last year. Among the staged-readings are Blindness, by Itamar Orlev, about a single mother trying to raise her teenage son whose genetic identity becomes crucial to her relationship with a blind couple; Foreign Worker, by Rachel Gil, in which an Israeli family must deal with the moral and social implications of the mysterious death of their Phillipina's baby; and Mermaids, by published poet Ilan Schenfeld, a magical-realism fable about fishermen who find a stranded mermaid on the beach. The prizes are scholarships and grants to support the playwright's work and the peer-awarded prizes are inspired by the Berlin Festival. Actors, directors and other theater professionals are the judges.