Overnight fight to save the Hebrew language [pg. 24]

A new staging of The Adventures of Sir Shimshon Bar Lashon opened earlier this month at the Mediatheque in Holon as part of the theater's revival of classic children's plays. Penned by Shmuel Hasfari, the show uses puns and word play to inspire a love of Hebrew in its young audiences. It will next take the stage at Haifa's Rappaport Auditorium on July 27. "I'm sure there are children, and even teachers or parents, who won't understand everything in the play. The Hebrew language is so rich and has so many treasures," Hasfari says of Shimshon, which he wrote entirely in rhyme. "On the one hand, a lot of work is needed to fully understand the language; one has to read a lot. On the other hand, everyone can enjoy the imagination and treasures in the play. There are some children who unquestionably don't understand every word, but who definitely enjoy the production and can follow the story." The Adventures of Sir Shimshon Bar Lashon was first staged in 1989 with a cast including Dov Navon, Yigal Naor and Hana Azoulai Hasfari. The new production sees Kobi Marciano, Yaniv Nachmias and Hadar Ratzon in the lead roles. "I was happy to help re-launch this play because it's one that I really love. Working with [the lead actors] reminded me why I love the profession I chose," says Hasfari, considered one of the country's leading playwrights. The play focuses on Shimshon, the most ostracized student in his class, who is finally given the opportunity to meet Shlulit, the most admired girl in his class. Shlulit, whose name literally translates to "puddle" - it's Hasfari's way of "lampooning today's so-called sophisticated names," he says - is so snobby that she holds auditions for those who want to be her friend. As luck would have it, Shimshon's audition comes just as he has to study for a Hebrew test. His parents require him to stay in his room and study, and while reviewing his work the young schoolboy falls asleep. In this fantasy, an old man, a sort of minister of language, soon appears to invite Shimshon on an adventure. There's a language crisis at hand - the Queen of Hebrew is in danger - and young Shimshon must help save her. The ensuing night involves wild adventures and a variety of strange characters, with Shimshon racing against time to save the Hebrew language, study for his test and meet Shlulit in time for his audition. Hasfari hopes those who see the play will go home inspired to help safeguard the Hebrew language. "I hope children will feel a responsibility to the Hebrew language [after seeing the show]," he says. "It's their language. That's really the purpose of the play."