Haifa English Theater moves house

New digs and a new entertainment roster are on the playbill for the Haifa English Theater.

haifa theater 88 298 (photo credit: )
haifa theater 88 298
(photo credit: )
The Haifa English Theatre (HET) is moving to a new venue for its new season, to Beth Hagefen on Sderot Hazionut. The timing gives HET the opportunity to participate in Haifa's annual Holiday of Holidays festival; its upcoming production of Jake's Women by Neil Simon will play six performances from December 29 to January 14. Haifa, known for its coexistence record, managed to keep the Holiday of Holidays tradition going even through the intifada. The festival of music, dance, theater, antique fairs, open markets and street happenings celebrate three holidays: Hanukka, Christmas and Ramadan. Most of the celebrations take place in and around Wadi Nisnas or at Beth Hagefen, the Arab-Jewish cultural center near the city center. Concerts will be held in the churches near Rehov Hagefen and the newly restored German Colony, as well as in Haifa University campus. Beth Hagefen lies at the crossroads of lower Hadar, at a meeting point of business and residences used by all of Haifa's religious and ethnic populations. HET's public relations officer Laurie Rubin, who herself has acted on stage, says that the center's focus on cross-cultural encounters makes it an appropriate setting for HET, which is enjoyed by a variety of people who understand English, not just immigrants from English-speaking countries. Until now, HET has struggled with difficult conditions and high costs at the Haifa Museum. Last year, their storage space was vandalized and many props and costumes were lost. Haifa is not a city that focuses on English-language culture, and HET operates on a tight budget, dependent solely on ticket sales and advertising in programs. Rubin says that both the cast and producers welcome the move, as Beth Hagefen offers greater space, better backstage facilities and more rehearsal time. For summer activities, the group now has a pleasant garden available. A member of HET Sharon Berg, has the concession to run a cafeteria during the performances. Jake's Women is an autobiographical play by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Simon. The protagonist, Jake - played by HET veteran actor Murray Rosovsky - is a novelist, more successful in his writing than in his own life. He expresses his emotions in imaginary conversations with his analyst, played by Valerie Herbert who acted in HET's very first production of Arsenic and Old Lace, and his current wife played by another long-time member, Bertha Cafrey. HET always welcomes new talent, and the parts of other family members involved in Jake's conversations are relatively new to the cast - his sister is played by Adrienne Arkin; his deceased wife at age 21 by Lucia Tyson, sister of Amelia Tyson who plays one of the incarnations of his daughter; current girlfriend Carolyn Hyde; and another incarnation of his daughter played by Dina Daitchman. Jake's moving and funny flashbacks are typical of Simon's genius, as well as his insight into the human psyche. This is a serious play but contains some of Simon's funniest lines. Timing is of the essence, and the cast is rehearsing thoroughly in order to achieve perfection. HET was established 24 years ago by a group of enthusiastic thespians who are still actively involved both on stage and behind the scenes. Sandy Aaron, Joyce Livingstone, John Dicks and Ed Cogan are experienced producers who have all acted on stage so can relate to the problems of learning lines and rehearsing after a hard day's work. The entire cast and backstage crew, as well as chairwoman Betsy Lewis Yizraeli and production manager Michael Lavetter, work voluntarily. The stars of its current production are also involved in administration, publicity, preparing the printed program and ticket sales. Ruth Wilner has been playing star parts from the beginning, while no scenery design and construction is complete without Yossi Lippa who has also tested his own opening and closing doors by appearing on stage. Music and photography have always been provided by Clive Noble, who is not only musical but also an enthusiastic expert in sound effects - and knows how to time them correctly. Even in professional theater, audiences are occasionally confused by the sounds of horses' hooves while the actors are playing a game of tennis. With Noble at the controls, HET actors can be confident that such blunders will not occur. Celia Kelman, who celebrated her 90th birthday last year, has been responsible for costumes since the beginning of the theater group, and is always seen at the last moment with her needle, repairing or improvising so that the productions are professional and the continuity authentic. Nevertheless, there are sometimes last-minute frantic searches for a particular artifact or piece of furniture to suit the period and scene of the play. Although HET members are not paid, they are far from amateur. Many of the founders and current actors studied drama and acted professionally before immigrating to Israel, others are teachers - working and retired - of drama, speech and English literature at the University of Haifa or the Oranim and Seminar Gordon colleges. With the change in venue, the group hopes to attract a wider audience and recruit new members. Tickets for performances December 29, January 5, 7, 12 and 14 at 20:30 Matinee performance January 10 at 17:30 Contact number for tickets and new thespians: Michael Lavetter: 054-2193323