Beit Lessin, the little theater that can

Beit Lessin is a theater that's far down on the public funding totem pole.

Beit Lessin is a theater that's far down on the public funding totem pole. It receives NIS 10 million or so compared with the NIS 22.4m. that goes to the Cameri Theater, whose former home it occupies. But its recent productions have managed to garner an impressive number of prizes and critical accolades; at last year's Israel Theater Prize ceremony, Savyon Librecht was named playwright of the year for Apples in the Desert. Two of Apples actresses also won awards. Librecht's The Banality of Love is among 20 local and translated plays that Beit Lessin hopes to mount in the next two seasons. "Beit Lessin remains committed to the seeking out, encouragement and nurturing of local playwriting, and to the active fostering of the next generations of actors," stated Beit Lessin general director Tzippi Pines. The Banality of Love deals with the more than 30-year love affair between the late essayist and moral gadfly Hannah Arendt, and philosopher and committed Nazi Martin Heidegger. The first play of the new season will be Hillel Mittelpunkt's Goodbye Africa, a tense political drama set in Uganda. It opens July 17, followed in September by Setting the Stage, a three-day festival of staged readings together with three fully staged plays, all by aspiring local playwrights. Other local plays include Dance and Fly, a black comedy by Reshef Levy about skeletons in the closet common to most "normal" families, Goren Agmon's Alma and Ruth, a drama that puts a young woman in bruising conflict with her culture, and Mike by Gadi Inbar, a drama about singer Mike Brandt who committed suicide in the 1970s. Following the huge success of Rain Man, Dan Gordon's adaptation, Beit Lessin will do other film adaptations for the stage. These include The Bridges of Madison County, the tear-jerker that starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, and On Golden Pond. The latter opens in October and stars Miriam Zohar and Ilan Dar in the roles of Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Other translations include Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Joe Penhall's Landscape with Weapons, the story of a young scientist who will only sell his revolutionary new missile provided that none are sold to Israel or the US, and Wedekind's Spring Awakening, which will employ the talents of the young actors from History Boys and Zissele.