Israeli Theatre

A culmination of foreign and native influences.

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Contemporary Topics

The 25-year-old Akko Festival for Israeli alternative theatre is perhaps the best example of contemporary Israeli theatrical energy. Presenting about ten out of the 100 submitted entries, the festival handles the "hot topics" in Israeli society--often more accurately than the politicians. In 1985, without deliberate coordination, 11 out of 12 of the major shows in the Festival had "living dead" characters on the stage. Twenty five kilometers further north, the death and destruction of the Lebanon War was still going on. Two years later, in 1987, the artistic director of the festival was accused of presenting an overly political repertoire, because many of the pieces chosen dealt with the low status of the Palestinians in and around the Occupied Areas. Six weeks later the first Intifada broke out.

Despite being highly commercial and insufficiently subsidized, Israeli theatre in the 2000s is nonetheless very much alive. On any given day, about half of the plays showing in Israel are original Hebrew works. Foreign directors often envy the brisk, interesting, and involved atmosphere on Israeli stages and in rehearsal rooms. Each year, more theatre classes are given in Israeli high schools and more theatre teachers are trained. Acting schools have to reject growing numbers of theatre aspirants.

Israeli theatre today spans a vast range of interests and styles: depicting identity crises and thirsting for "universal culture"; bridging antiquity and modernity; importing international drama while adapting Hasidic stories and Israeli novels.

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Shimon Levy

Dr. Shimon Levy is full professor at the Tel Aviv University Theater Department. His publications include three books on Samuel Beckett's drama, as well as The Bible as Theatre and The Israeli Theatre Canon.