To say that Hebrew Theater founder and artistic director Gadi Tsedaka is proud of his theater, its staff, its actors and creators is like saying that a diamond is a pretty piece of glass.
By HELEN KAYE
The Hebrew Theater (HT) has been making its bones all over Israel for 10 years, playing to full houses, racking up theatrical credits, in the black (which it plows right back into R & D), and now, deservedly confident, professionally accomplished and experienced, it has come to ZOA House, its new Tel Aviv home base.To say that HT founder and artistic director Gadi Tsedaka is proud of his theater, its staff, its actors and creators is like saying that a diamond is a pretty piece of glass.“When we started,” he said addressing the media this week, “our aim was to provide original plays that speak to, and are relevant to our existence here. Over the last decade we have realized that aim, and today, the Hebrew Theater has become central to Israeli culture. I think I may say we’re actually the new national theater.”To start the event, he had actress/singer Nava Medina sing a song from HT’s 2020-’21 season’s production of Light, a play with music of the life of Israeli singer Shoshana Damari, the Yemenite girl who became the voice of the new state of Israel. Medina sang “Kalaniyot” (anemones) one of her signature songs and her audience of (usually cynical, usually skeptical) Israeli reporters enthusiastically joined in the chorus.Israelis’s greatest fear is being perceived as suckers, but, oh, we’re exactly that when it comes to our own and Tsedaka’s HT is built just for that.It would surprise no one that the flagship of next year’s lineup is the immortal Fiddler on the Roof, directed by, and starring Natan Datner as Tevye the milkman who is trying to marry off his five daughters, except that “in the Hebrew version it’s Tuvia,” says Datner, “Tevye belongs in the diaspora. Tuvia is ours, in a sovereign state with its own army.” Composer Gil Shohat is doing the musical arrangement for that and for Light.Others in the lineup are Yehoshua Sobol’s wrenching Ghetto about the Vilna Ghetto theater in 1942-43, with the Ra’anana Symphonette providing the musical accompaniment, The Ofnobank (dubbed “Biker Bandit” in English) by Tsedaka, based on the true-life exploits of motorcycle bank robber Roni Leibowitz who robbed some 21 banks before he was caught, and who became a folk-hero; Love, also by Tsedaka, is a romantic comedy about the meaning of love, and Berlin a comedy by Ilan Hatzor about a Holocaust survivor who has sworn an oath never again to set foot in Germany, but when he hears his daughter and grandson have made their home in Berlin, of all places – Well!!Some of last season’s repertoire continues, such as Tsedaka’s ChocoVanilla their “breakthrough play” according to Tsedaka that addresses Israeli racism towards the Ethiopian community via comedy and that has had 700 performances to date, and Sabotage by Hatzor (to which Berlin is a kind of sequel) that addresses the mostly ignored Mizrachi holocaust during WWII.Last year HT played 400 shows for 260,000 people, with 95% of its budget coming from earned income and only 5% from public funding.Born in 1966, Tsedaka grew up as part of the Samaritan community of Holon, served as a paratrooper and intelligence officer in the IDF, decided to study theater, attended Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts and then joined Rina Yerushalmi to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet opposite Pnina Brett as Juliet. They fell in love, married and founded HT together.This year HT proposes some 100 performances at ZOA alone and will establish HT’s home base at Or Akiva.