Beit Lessin Open Stage Festival

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Center stage in a fire engine red dress, Tzipi Pines, Beit Lessin Theatre’s general manager and artistic director, introduced the upcoming Open Stage Festival, saying that “it came about by chance, not through any great vision.” According to Pines, she was in Avishai Milstein’s office, which “looks like the trash bin of Tel Aviv – full of scripts. I said ‘Let’s do a public reading. If all this is accumulating anyway, why don’t we hear it?” In the ten years since its inception, the festival has become an opportunity to encounter new voices in Israeli drama, and, as festival artistic director Milstein adds, “even if it began casually, it has developed into a deeply visionary enterprise.”

Opening the 30 year anniversary of Beit Lessin with two weekends of 9 staged readings, 4 full productions and other special events, beginning September 3rd. Between 10 – 15 plays are selected each year (from about 100 applicants) for readings, out of which 4 – 5 plays are awarded grants for production. Among the plays which had their first exposure at ‘Open Stage’ are Hadar Galron’s Mikveh (2004 production of the year at Israeli Theatre Academy Awards) and Reshef Levy’s ‘The Indian Patient’ (2005 playwright of the year). This year’s plays include: “Foreign Worker” by Rachel Gil, “Who Knows Amos Hefer” by Tuviah Tzifin and “Princess Mary 7” by Yoav Michaeli.

The festival’s 10th anniversary will be marked with a tribute to the actress Zahrira Harifai for her contribution to the festival throughout the years. Several special events are planned, including a panel discussion on the festival and its impact and a performance based on Anat Harari’s book “100 Mothers”, an exploration of mother-daughter realtionships, that will feature Yona Elian-Keshet, Hana Azoulay-Hasfari, Miriam Zohar, Zahrira Harifai, Tehiya Danon, Tzofit Grant, Keren Tzur, Nina Kotler, Chen Danon, Hagar Danon and Irit Kaplan.

As part of Beit Lessin’s international collaborations, a group from the Heidelburg Theatre will take part in the festival and Ligna, a theatre group from Hamburg, has been invited to present “The New Man” as part of the program. Described as a performance without actors or stage, it is a theatrical happening that involves audience participation and radios.  Ligna members Torsten Michaelsen, Michael Hüners and Ole Frahm have been working together since 1996, with an emphasis on directing the audience through the use of radio in public spaces such as trains stations, city squares and main streets.

Opening the festival will be a musical production based on Menahem Talmi’s book Jaffa Tales, performed by Beit Lessin’s talented cohort of young actors. The group was formed at last year’s festival with the performance of “Broadway corner of Frishman”. The comic cabaret will be accompanied by special guest Ahuva Ozeri, pioneer of Mizrahi music. Ozeri was one of the first women to write and perform songs in what was a male dominated field, persisting in following her own path and creating a lasting impact on the Israeli cultural scene. Despite losing her voice in 2000 as a result of cancer of the vocal chords, Ozeri continues to write music and is a beloved and respected musician.

Performances will take place at ZOA House, 26 Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv
September 3 – 5 and 11 – 12
Tickets and information: 03-7255333, www.lessin.co.il

Image credit: Elizur Reuveni