Celebrating the arts in the capital

For the musically inclined, the festival features a wide range of appealing concerts.

‘Magic Bubbles.’ (photo credit: JERUSALEM ARTS FESTIVAL)
‘Magic Bubbles.’
Imagine this. You’re perusing the paintings in the Art Time Gallery when Marilyn Monroe twirls through the space in her iconic white dress. You’re enjoying a latte at Nocturno Café when Frida Kahlo passes by your table. You’re sipping a glass of wine at Tmol Shilshom when Dana International struts across the dimly lit room.
These encounters will become more likely as Angela Company presents Aubergine, a series of dance performances inspired by female characters who have influenced social change. The piece is one of almost 50 spectacular events offered during the 2016 Jerusalem Arts Festival.
Running from March 29 to April 5, the festival features dance, music and theater performances, as well as events highlighting the plastic arts. According to the organizers, the festival aims “to promote, to nurture and to encourage the various creative fields and present the public with unique and high-quality performances at prices everyone can afford.”
This year’s events are particularly exciting, as artists highlight Jerusalem’s multicultural and resilient spirit. Amid the city’s tense security situation, many small businesses are struggling to survive.
But shows like Aubergine, which take place in coffee shops and restaurants, offer cultural experiences in unique, safe and enclosed environments.
They are easily accessible, provide much-needed support to artists and business owners and encourage patrons to venture out and enjoy the vitality of the city.
Einat Raz Globerman, director of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Dance Department, says, “The stage can be anywhere!” Indeed, events will take place at the YMCA auditorium, the Gerard Behar Center, the Khan Theater and other select locations. There will also be free performances in the Jerusalem Theatre lobby before and after each evening’s main show.
In addition to Aubergine, the festival offers a wide variety of performances for dance lovers. With Flamenco – Cabaret, The First Station will be transformed into a colorful circus ring, complete with performance artists, live music and an exciting flamenco routine. In Fantasy, several belly dancers will present an intriguing show combining multiple ethnic styles. In Seventh Hafaka, the Halelu Company, a small group of religious female dancers, will perform a multi-sensory piece inspired by hassidic weddings.
For the musically inclined, the festival features a wide range of appealing concerts.
In Jewish Music in the Scottish Church, the works of Jewish composers, such as Mendelssohn, Mombach and Lewandowski, will be performed in the historic St. Andrew’s Church. Enhanced by the structure’s acoustically sound architecture, the Jerusalem A-Cappella Singers will present pieces written for the synagogue, with the blessing of the church’s leaders and congregants. At the same time, the singers pay tribute to the church’s contributions to choral music.
Situated on the border of the German Colony and Katamon, the Greek Colony is a charming hub of history and culture.
In Concertiul, participants are invited on a walking tour of the Greek Colony. After the tour, the Naama Ensemble will perform a vocal concert featuring songs from Greece, Scotland, Germany and other locales. Kind Word highlights the talents of young artists with special needs, performing alongside the Neurim Choir and the Ketzev Hazman drummer’s band. The inspiring show is a testament to open-mindedness, fun and the power of positive thinking.
For a more low-key form of entertainment, music professionals sought five emerging singer-songwriters to feature in Songs at Source. Inspired by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, the young artists underwent an audition and mentoring process and will perform their own songs, accompanied by acoustic guitar or backed by a small band. In Songs of Poets in Contemporary Spirit, several well-established acts will present original songs based on works by Israel’s most celebrated writers, such as Etgar Keret, Natan Alterman and Avraham Shlonsky.
The entire family will enjoy Nighttime Fantasy, a carefully crafted piece combining reimagined excerpts from classic plays and musicals. While the majority of the show is performed in Hebrew, there are small sections, such as highlights from Oliver!, that are in the original English. The stage will be shared by several veteran music and theater groups, as well as a children’s choir, resulting in a multifaceted evening starring performers ranging in age from 10 to 67.
In terms of theater, the festival presents many touching plays in Hebrew. In One Too Many, two women coping with trauma explore loss, grief and psychological distress through song and humor. Red Shoes follows the life of an Arab high school drop-out who finds a job as a construction worker. Performed in Arabic with Hebrew translation, the piece features a single actor and his puppet.
Both shows, based on real-life events, bring private struggles into the public sphere, destigmatizing the difficulties faced by underrepresented sectors of Israeli society. In the visual theater piece Dunes, two young Israeli women reconstruct their childhood memories with props such as mounds of sand and toy soldiers.
The festival also features exciting plays for children. In Angel of Prayers, the main character meets an angel who takes him on a nightly journey to encounter the dreams and longings that people have lost. The whimsical play, which combines actors and puppets, is followed by a puppet-making workshop. In Magic Bubbles, a prince falls in love with a princess who leaves her riches behind in order to save a forest.
The piece features extravagant costumes, modern interpretations of classical music and a bubble party at the end of the show. Both performances are free, with the goal of encouraging children to appreciate high-quality culture and art. Tickets must be reserved in advance.
The week’s festivities will close with a remarkable interdisciplinary event at the Bible Lands Museum titled “Revelation: The Rave to End Raves.” For one evening only, the museum will be completely transformed as Jerusalem-based artists showcase their personal interpretations of the museum’s exhibits. The result is a fascinating combination of ancient and modern, featuring sound and video art, spoken word, giant puppets, light shows, dance performances, musical acts and more. Preparations for this night have been going on throughout the year, and tickets may sell out quickly. 
For more information about the 2016 Jerusalem Arts Festival or to purchase tickets, visit www.arts-festival.jerusalem.muni.il.