Shakespeare on the move

Hamlet takes over Jerusalem’s Theatre in the Rough

A scene from Hamlet in Jerusalem's Theater (photo credit: YITZ WOOLF)
A scene from Hamlet in Jerusalem's Theater
(photo credit: YITZ WOOLF)
One of literature’s legendary plays unfolded on the lawns of Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Gardens when local community theater group ‘Theatre in the Rough’ premiered their first showing of Hamlet: In Motion on August 8.
The mother-son duo of Beth Steinberg (artistic director) and Natan Skop (producer) present the Shakespeare tragedy in scenes that will take place all over Bloomfield Park as the audience follows along – with no charge for admission.
“Hamlet is sort of a cliche in a good sense in that you studied it in high school or encountered it somewhere and now you can experience it in this setting,” said Skop, who is starring as Hamlet.
Steinberg and Skop founded Theatre in the Rough several years after they made aliya from New York in 2006. The idea stemmed from a conversation between mother and son. Skop was still in the army, and after performing with the veteran acting group JEST, he began looking for something new.
“I came to my mom and she said, ‘Let’s do Shakespeare, running around like we saw in Central Park. It’ll be great.’ So we started in Liberty Park and moved to this location the second year.
“The first year we invited our friends and we expected maybe 50 people to show up. More than 200 people showed up. We didn’t even know where to stand on stage,” said Skop.
 Since then, the annual performances have evolved into a much-anticipated summer tradition for theater lovers in Jerusalem and its environs. Although attendance grows each year, the roving theater still retains it cozy charm and twinkle in its eye.
Hamlet is one of the most quoted pieces of literature of all time. Steinberg, her husband Ira Skop (who plays two characters in the play) and veteran actress Annabelle Landgarten cut the script nearly in half so that it runs about two hours long and appeals to families.
“You know as a New Yorker and as a homeschooling parent, I really valued affordable theater because I was a theater person. But I also valued being able to find things for the kids and the family and myself,” said Steinberg.
The intimacy of the park allows the cast to “break the fourth wall,” or interact with the audience, says actor Simon Montagu.
“What I love about the park is that we’re in the audiences’ faces all the time. It gives us an opportunity to give scenes directly to members of the audience and get them involved. What I also like is that we have a very young audience. Every performance we have a number of kids who are seeing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Montagu, who made aliya from London in 1982 and is playing King Claudius.
Steinberg says that one of the most rewarding outcomes of putting on the play is how it unites an audience.
“There’s all the people that find out about us... Then there’s the people that engage with us in the park. For example, it is not Elul yet in the Jewish calendar, which means that the more religious crowd are now relaxing, having fun post-Tisha Be’av before they go back to school or whenever their calendar moves towards the High Holidays. They are not normally going to performances, but they sit down in the park and watch.
“We come in contact a lot with Arab families and kids, who often have pretty good English and sit down and watch. Theatre brings people together and I really value that. We always want them to enjoy it and feel comfortable with that,” said Steinberg.
Hamlet: In Motion. August 12, 13, 15, 16, 26, 27, 28 at 5:30 p.m. Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem.
Although the play is free, Theatre in the Rough kindly suggests a donation of  NIS 35 to cover their expenses.
For more info visit or call 052-559-4257.