Finding the time to lift our spirits

An all-male theater troupe from Gush Etzion puts on a show to honor an heroic solider.

josef show 88  (photo credit: )
josef show 88
(photo credit: )
Over the past four years, the women and girls of the Efrat/Gush Etzion Raise Your Spirits Summer Stock Company have been cheering up women throughout Israel by performing English-language musical productions in Gush Etzion, Jerusalem and other areas of Yesha. And for the past four years, the men of Efrat and Gush Etzion have been complaining, "What about us?" After listening to their complaints, director Toby Klein Greenwald decided to put Gush Etzion's male population to the test. Nothing could have been a more natural production for the new performers than "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and translated into Hebrew by the late Ehud Manor. "Joseph" was the first production of the Raise Your Spirits women's troupe in the fall of 2001. Now an all male cast and orchestra who call themselves "Teatron Ha'ahim" (The Brothers Troupe) are performing the Hebrew version, "Yosef V'Ketonet HaPassim HaMuflaah." The cast and crew of 45 range in age from seven to 62. Having contemplated the project for two years, Greenwald finalized the idea for a men's "Yosef," at the start of the summer. As the people of Israel were being ripped apart by pro- and anti-Gush Katif demonstrations, and brothers were turning against one another in anger and even hatred, Greenwald wanted to give kids and teenagers something positive and creative to do during the long tense summer months. And she wanted to involve adult men, who'd serve as role models for the boys. With the support of the local council of Efrat, Raise Your Spirits, Keren Efrat, the community centers of Efrat and Gush Etzion, and private donations, the production was launched. The decision to put on "Yosef" was also fortuitous as it allowed the troupe to honor the memory of Yosef Goodman z"l of Efrat, a heroic soldier from the Maglan unit who recently died in a parachuting accident [See page 13]. When Goodman's parachute strings became entangled with those of his commander, he valiantly cut himself loose to save his officer. When his reserve parachute did not open, Yosef fell to his death. The proceeds from one particular performance helped found "Keren Yosef," a fund for a special sports program at the Meled School in Jerusalem. Goodman studied at Meled for three years and was one of its most accomplished graduates. A resident of Efrat and a role model himself to young boys, Goodman was raised close to the settler movement. "We rehearsed in between demonstrations, sometimes with broken hearts. And that's why in addition to inviting victims of terror, we invite people from Gush Katif as our guests to the show," says assistant director Yishai Zinger, who also plays Yosef. "Because of everything that was going on with Gush Katif this summer, I felt that this production was an island of happiness. It was separated from what went on in the outside world. It was a place where we could have a respite...It was interesting that almost every time we met, we sang the song, "Close Every Door". It was a song that we felt very connected to. We empathized with the people from Gush Katif and we felt what their supporters felt. We sang the song for them and also for ourselves. We felt the pain and the sadness, and it was healing for us." Yishai performs in Greenwald's Dor L'Dor troupe, and the Gush Etzion improvisational Playback Theater, but he joined the "Yosef" production because he thought being in an all-men's production would be a different kind of experience. "It was a great opportunity for someone religious to do musical theater. I usually do drama, not musicals. Music really hits the heart." And like Joseph's brothers, all of whom were unique, the cast is made up of a varied group of boys, teens and adults. "Each is at a very different place in his life, and each has a very unique personality," Greenwald says. "We call the group Teatron Ha'ahim, because we have eight sets of brothers in the cast, including two sets of twins, and three sets of fathers and sons. Like the biblical Jacob, we, too, have created a 'family' that is full of diversity," says Greenwald. In addition to appearing in Gush Etzion, Teatron Ha'achim has also appeared at the Kfar Hanofesh in Ashkelon, and at Moshav Bnei Re'em, where the audiences were composed mostly of those uprooted from Gush Katif and some locals. "It brought a healing message," she says. The show has "retired" for now, but they might come out of retirement if they receive requests from development towns, the army or more central locations. Proceeds from "Yosef" performances go to various charity projects. For more information, call Toby at 0523-822104 or e-mail: Donations to Keren Yosef can be made to: Meled, P.O.B. 2875, 30 Hillel St, Jerusalem, 91028. Sharon Katz is the editor of Voices Magazine, a monthly magazine that originates in Gush Etzion. (Voices Magazine/