The play must go on

Despite the difficult times, Theater in the Rough brings its annual summer Shakespeare production to a Jerusalem park.

A scene from Theater in the Rough’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’  (photo credit: CHRISTINE RYTTER)
A scene from Theater in the Rough’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’
(photo credit: CHRISTINE RYTTER)
‘The string is there for guidance; we invite you to get friendly with the actors. If you miss something in the play, don’t worry, it’s Shakespeare – there is much more where it came from. Welcome to the show,” Beth Steinberg said to the audience at the premiere of the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Park last Thursday.
A director with a mission, she wants to create something that will make people come together during this difficult time.
”I share content online from time to time, but I can’t bear the endless sharing of war-related things. Theater is not a part of politics. The art of theater is about creating. And theater brings people together,” she says.
She and the cast of Theater in the Rough have been working on the Shakespearean comedy for two and a half months, and they have been disrupted by sirens and bad news more times than they can count. In fact, two weeks ago they weren’t sure if people would even show up to see it.
Natan Skop, who plays Oberon, King of the Fairies, was afraid that the bad timing could destroy what they had worked so hard to put together.
”We didn’t know how to advertise. Some might say it was fiddling while Rome burns. But theater is group therapy at a time when we need to find something to be happy about,” he says.
The group was inspired by a theater troupe called New York Classical Theatre, which performs in Central Park. Theatre in the Rough has been putting on Shakespearean plays since 2010, and the cast and crew all emphasize how close they have become.
Not only is the theatrical company one big family, but Steinberg’s own family is deeply involved as well. Her husband, Ira, is the financial manager and plays the role of Nick Bottom, while her son Natan is the producer. But everyone has to audition, even the son or husband of the director.
”A summer like this has been hard for everyone, but we were at rehearsal when we heard of the kidnappings. We were together through all the bad times,” says Steinberg.
Tamar Naggan, who plays Titania, Queen of the Fairies, says she hasn’t missed one rehearsal during the whole summer, even though she has a full-time job as a teacher. At one point she was in her car on the way from Omer to Jerusalem when a siren sounded.
“This season was very hard for me – leaving my kids and knowing that a siren could go off while I was gone,” she says. “It takes me an hour and a half each way to get to the rehearsals. But I do it gladly. I get the chance to be creative, to make something out of nothing. We made it.”
Skop feels that the theater is the only place where he can truly be himself.
”In so many other parts of life, we have to put up these barriers and hide how we really feel. In the play, I can express myself. You show your bravery and vulnerability. In my everyday life, I don’t think too much about how I feel. The theater gives me a chance to do that,” he says.
Steinberg believes that she is the group’s biggest fan.
”This was just perfect,” she said after the premiere. “I’m grateful for this moment.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed in Jerusalem August 13 through 21 (except Friday and Saturday). All performances start at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit