TheaterNetto 2020 continues its focus on homegrown productions

This year’s plays are frequently hard-hitting and unsparing.

NETA YASHCHIN stars in ‘My Mother is a Whore.’ (photo credit: GERAR ALON)
NETA YASHCHIN stars in ‘My Mother is a Whore.’
(photo credit: GERAR ALON)
"Good Morning,” says Ya’akov Agmon, and grins broadly. “That’s how I started this whole thing 30 years ago, with ‘good morning,’ and here we are again with 12 new plays in competition, chosen by the creative community from the some 100 submitted.”
Agmon, shoving hard at 92, has a right to be proud. There have been some 400 productions over the 30 years, the great majority of them Israeli plays, at the TheaterNetto Monodrama Festival. The 30th anniversary of the festival will run this year during Passover, from April 11–13, at and around the Jaffa Theater in Old Jaffa, and at the Crusader Fortress in Acre. All but two of this year’s offerings were made in Israel. Of the 10, nine were written by the actor performing them, and have to do with the arc of their own lives.
All 12 will be competing for the NIS 10,000 Nissim Azikri Best Actor Prize, which in 2019, and “not unexpectedly,” went to Tarin Shalfi “for her unsentimental, nuanced, sensitive, humor-laced self-portrait in Moving the Sun, the actress/author’s ongoing battle with metastatic cancer,” as we wrote at the time.
But Tarin lost that battle. To honor her memory, the family has decided on an annual award: the Tarin Shalfi Audience Favorite Prize, worth NIS 5,000.
This year’s plays are frequently hard-hitting and unsparing. Among them are The Memory Monster, adapted from the book by Yishai Sarid and performed by Ben Yosipovitch, who tells us, “To survive you have to be a bit Nazi,” as he recounts the life he has chosen – a tourist guide in the death camps the Nazis spread about Poland.
“I guard the darkness,” says David Bilinka, playing a guard in Early Childhood by George Brant, translated by Keren Tzur. Whom does he guard? Children torn from their illegal immigrant parents by the orders of President Trump. But when a mysterious epidemic breaks out, what is he to do?
Harmony, written and performed by Abigail Perry, takes guts, because it’s about her life, and because it’s about incest.
Another autobiographical monodrama is My Daughter Is a Whore, in which energetic redhead Neta Yashchin, who came to Israel with the first big Russian immigration in the ‘70s, recalls the experiences of those early years and the culture shock. And yes, one of her daughters was a whore.
A bit of comedy never comes amiss, and in Carte Blanche, artist Michal Svironi combines art and theater, asking, can we really start from scratch, leaving the past behind?
From prolific American playwright Neil LaBute comes Wrecks (Edi Carr in Hebrew), with Itcho Avital as Edi, a grieving and fresh widower plagued by guilt and asking what love is, really. In Last Night I Dreamed About the Prime Minister, Ilil Lev Cnaan has created an un-anthem to Benjamin Netanyahu from real dreams about him that she’s been collecting for four years.
Outside on the Jaffa Theater plaza, as they do every year, students from the theater department of Seminar HaKibbutzim will perform their own takes on this year’s theme: Gag Mechanisms in Israeli Society.
TheaterNetto 2020 says, “Prepare to be challenged.”