In celebration of Israeli Stage’s third birthday, we have asked actors, artistic associates (playwrights and directors), founding board members and you, our audience, to tell us about your experience with Israeli Stage. If you’ve got a story to share, please send it our way!
I’m very excited to see Israeli Stage turn three, especially since I remember its inception, as a concept, discussed in multiple conversations with Guy, which were usually accompanied by good food…
I have had the privilege of attending almost all of the readings in the course of these three years not only as an audience member, but also as a “behind the scenes” person, helping out with a garden variety of matters. These included anything from greeting people at the door before the beginning of the performances, through discussing with Guy aspects of the English translation, to becoming a founding board member.
This experience, in its entirety, has cast a new light on Israeli theater for me. I discovered that, contrary to my expectations, there is a considerable non-Israeli, non-Jewish cohort who is genuinely interested in the themes Israeli plays focus on. This interest is not couched a stereotypic view of Israeli culture as a highly politicized and militaristic society, but rather reflects a desire to better understand more universal themes that appeal to theater goers at large. As an Israeli, this realization made appreciate being part of an enterprise that showcases this somewhat less known facet of “Israeliness.”
I also discovered that staged readings constitute as much of a powerful modality for experiencing theater as do full-fledged theater productions. I never realized that watching a bunch of people seated on chairs read out loud lines from a play had the potential to produce such emotional responses and be so thought provoking!
It has been very gratifying for me to witness the transformation of Israeli Stage from a great idea into an amazing reality. I know this feeling very well from my own experience as a researcher. When you first start off a project, you are busy looking for the right ingredients to conduct your “proof of concept” study, in which you hope to demonstrate the feasibility and value of your proposal. Then, when your findings start to emerge, you observe patterns, and begin making sense of what you are seeing. Your insights bring with them a sense of clarity and reassurance that you’re on to something, at which point your project just “feels right.”
I would say that Israeli Stage has passed the “proof of concept” phase with flying colors. The diversity of its repertoire, the quality and reputation of its performing artists, the overwhelming attendance of the audience at every premiere, and the stimulating talk-backs following the readings not only speak to its success, they also point to its potential to evolve into a unique cultural enterprise pushing Boston a step closer to the forefront of “global” theater.
I can’t wait to see where Israeli Stage goes next.
Dalia Cahana-Amitay, Founding Board Member / President of the Board
Israeli Stage has grown at a tremendous speed and made an impact on the Boston theatre scene far greater than its humble beginnings. Guy Ben Aharon’s brainchild while still a student at Emerson College, Israeli Stage has developed into one of the most intriguing producers in the region. With Guy’s simple staging and direct approach; with his ear for relevant works and new translations; with its sophisticated subject matter, and its involvement of local actors and artists, Israeli Stage has become an important resource for audiences in the Boston area and the northeast. Its focus on contemporary Israeli literature is helping bridge gaps in cultural understanding, and fostering important discussions as well as examining new and established ideas equally. Guy’s work over the last years in crewing Israeli Stage has added in many ways to the contemporary theatre conversation in this region.
Melia Bensussen, OBIE Award Winning Director and Chair of Performing Arts at Emerson College
Today is Guy Ben-Aharon’s third anniversary as the creator, heart, and soul of Israeli Stage. Guy and I met when he was a student in my class, but I cannot now recall ever relating to him as a student. I am, in fact, at a loss to describe how I relate to Guy. Though I feel connected to him through my love for Israel, we are as unalike as two people can be. Then again we both love theater so much that we work in it. We could have taken other paths, and easier ones at that, but theater is our magnet. We both work long days and make sacrifices for small, private rewards. Yet, theater is more than our profession. It is the arena where disparity is not only accepted but invited. It is the only place I know where people can go to fight, scream, cry, blame, and even lie with impunity. And in the same time span, we also like, love, desire and laugh. We may even leave feeling a kinship with the very individuals who provoked us to anger.
To your continued success, Guy, and to the continuance and growth of Israeli Stage: L’Chaim.
Brynna Bloomfield, Founding Board Member
Congratulations and huge thanks to all – actors, directors, audience members, playwrights, producers and supporters – on this wonderful milestone, our Israeli Stage’s third birthday. What an energetic and promising milestone this is!
Starting with the brilliant vision and limitless energy of our multi-talented Founder and Producing Artistic Director Guy Ben-Aharon, the Israeli Stage family has grown to harness and include the positive energy and nurturing love that many of us are excited to bring forth, to enrich ourselves and others, and to give back to our local cultural communities.
One question I have often been asked is ”Why should Israeli theater be of such importance?” I believe that Israel continues to be a world “hot-spot” for various political and moral developments, as well “beta-site” for technological, social, and ethical dilemmas. Israel has a dynamic culture, dealing with the balance of various tensions such as personal vs. collective, security vs. liberties, religion vs. democracy, personal freedom vs. group identity, and innovation vs. tradition. The Israeli melting pot of identities and tensions has created a very rich theater scene that converses with the classics, the modern, the local and also the international. Like the country itself, it is far richer than the stereotypical image of Israel held by many media consumers around the world. I was born here in Boston, and grew up with strong roots on both sides of the Atlantic, feeling the unbreakable connection of Boston and Israel. Strengthening the understanding, relationships and collaboration of these two leading cultural communities is a natural calling.
So many thanks again to Guy and Israeli Stage family, on this 3rd annual celebration. “We know what we are, but know not what we may be”. I eagerly look forward to our continued growth in the years to come, with more collaborations, more staged readings, full show productions, and a wider reach into the various people we serve – local groups, actors, directors, playwrights, students, diverse audiences and various American communities.
Samuel “Mooly” Dinnar, Founding Board Member
A Birthday Poem:
A stage today,
is its own poetic fabulous world
a beautiful place, the stage is.
I have seen aspects grown and become
a place where creativity flows.
The Israeli Stage….
A dedicated audience.
A growing audience.
A critical audience.
A contagious stage.
One that inspires the German stage.
One that inspires the world’s stage.
With a director who is more than a director.
And a producer who is more than a producer.
One that travels the world to spread his unique ideas
One that brings a theatre which is more than a theatre.
More than a story.
Words becoming alive onstage.
I’m talking about my dearest friend
A man named Guy, who surely is not shy
A genius to many and of course to me
A man who knows how to turn a single flower into a bouquet of roses.
Happy Birthday, Israeli Stage.
Congratulations for the third birthday of “Israeli Stage” in Boston. You were able to create an inspiring institution that brings the voice of the Israeli theatre to the US. I am very grateful for giving me the opportunity to present my play At Night’s End in February 2012 in Boston to a full house of theatre lovers, performed by a group of wonderful professional actors and directed by a superb director – Melia Bensussen. The staged reading that you have produced allowed me to continue exploring the play dramaturgically, to discover its nuances in English, and to get engaged with a very curious and very involved audience about its meaning both in Israel and in the US. I’m sure the presentation of the play allowed the Boston theatre lovers to discover layers of life in Israel that were unknown to them, and even get a sense of the emotional price that many Israelis are paying for living in a country that is involved in ongoing wars for 65 years. I’m sure your audience has become more aware of the reasons why so many of us in Israel are so desperate to continue struggling for peace in spite of the failures in all the attempts to negotiate with our neighbors. I’m sure the opportunity you gave my play has contributed to creating a more rational and more constructive discourse about peace in the Middle East.
Motti Lerner, Award Winning Playwright
I love Israeli Stage, Guy Ben-Aharon, the people he hires and the audiences who come to see the work. Guy has achieved a kind of notoriety for the excellence of his choices, and the projects I have worked on here (Oh, God and Ulysses on Bottles) have been provocative and engaging in their exploration of the human spirit in the world in which we live right now. Happy Birthday Israeli Stage. Mazal tov. May you continue to grow and perform.
Will Lyman, Elliot Norton Award and IRNE Award Winning Actor
My wife and I are Boston area theater goers and supporters. We enjoy great theater set designs at the Huntington, innovative staging at the ART, Shakespeare “on the Common,” and an occasional very expensive seat for a Broadway show we just can’t wait to come to Boston. But we were recently reminded when seeing the Israeli Stage production of “Oh, God” at BU Hillel that the essence of great theater is great actors, and material that makes you think, makes you feel, and if you are lucky, also makes you laugh. We found both in this production. For less than the cost of a first run movie. I can do without those other things. I’ll take more of what Guy is bringing to Boston. Lots more.
Bruce Lynn, Audience Member from Lexington, MA
As an actor who has been involved in the work of Israeli Stage over the past few years (Lerner’s At Night’s End and Evron’s Ulysses on Bottles), I can say what a truly rich and rewarding experience it has been. Personally, intellectually and artistically. It has been a privilege to get to know the work of these gifted writers, to work with them personally on the material and to see audiences engaged and moved by staged readings. The post performance discussions are always so lively and provocative. It makes one wonder what the effect of a full production would be!
Guy Ben-Aharon may be a young director/producer, but he is very gifted at his job and dedicated to his mission. He manages to gather local actors, Israeli playwrights and their work, local directors and audiences, to come together and share the plays of these wonderful artists. I think we all have wondered ” why haven’t we heard or seen this playwright’s work in the States before?” And rightly so. Isn’t it a good idea to keep exploring other theatre cultures, as citizens of the world? Isn’t it our duty as artists to bring this work to the communities we are a part of?
I have had the experience of performing and also seeing theatre in Israel and it was a powerful one. The culture of the theatre is deeply ingrained in the country; the playwrights dealing with moral, political, human questions, both unique to their own experience and pertinent to the world at large.
As an artist, I am curious about the work of playwrights from other cultures and I think audiences are too. If Guy is able to expand his vision of the possibilities of Israeli Stage, what a boon that would be to Boston theatre. Giving actors, directors and designers a chance to work on these plays could only be enriching and audiences would be the lucky recipients of those collaborations.
Karen MacDonald, Elliot Norton Award and IRNE Award Winning Actress
Israeli Stage is precisely the kind of presence that helps transform a group (a community, a society) by introducing new, invigorating cultural experiences, which would not be available otherwise. The plays that Guy Ben-Aharon chooses are invariably interesting and pertinent on many levels: intellectually, socially, aesthetically, and theatrically.
The nascent effect on the audiences are made evident in the discussions following the performances; where questions and insights are developed and shared in a way that connects the audience with the performers, writers, director, and the material itself. This collaboration, which fully includes the audience, solidifies the events as a community experience, something which joins and connects and builds in a way that only a creative setting can facilitate. One cannot diminish the need for such connection, especially in these times when the threat of violence and ignorance against the “other” seems to increase.
Theatre affords one, who is open to it, an opportunity to engage and understand, sometimes ourselves and sometimes another. It is only by asking and acting out the most fundamental questions of who we are do we begin the process of uncovering answers. It has been our experience that Israeli Stage is doing just that. Through this collaboration of cultures, we have all been enriched in the process. We can only hope that such a process continues to grow into something that can accommodate more: more actors, more audiences, more plays, more collaboration, more questions, more connection, more understanding.
Anya Vedmid and Jon Cappadona, Audience Members from Jamaica Plain, MA
Israeli Stage has been a unique force in establishing theater as a new venue of communication between cultures, between peoples, between ideas and concepts. It offers better understanding through not only the plays wisely chosen by Guy Ben-Aharon, but through the community that was formed through his personal charm and dedication that created the warm atmosphere that involved the audience into what is now called the Israeli Stage Family. Boston is fortunate to have Israeli Stage, and I am fortunate to be a part of this expanding community. Happy Birthday Israeli Stage. Boston loves you!
Rosian Zerner, Audience Member from Newton, MA