Pop­u­lar Is­raeli play on war re­turns to China

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN

In 1991, dur­ing the first Gulf War, a group of Jewish-Rus­sian ac­tors un­der the lead­er­ship of Yevgeny Arye, a prom­i­nent stage di­rec­tor in Moscow, em­i­grated to Is­rael. In a bold move, they founded a theater that they named Gesher, which means “bridge” in He­brew.

Over the years, Gesher theater has suc­cess­fully reached across Rus­sian and Is­raeli cul­tures by re­cruit­ing many Is­raeli ac­tors and ac­tresses. Its productions are bilin­gual, in Rus­sian and He­brew.

More than 60 productions have been pre­sented at more than 17 in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals, win­ning nu­mer­ous awards. Vil­lage, which was first staged in 1996, was an early suc­cess.

In 2015, Gesher brought Vil­lage to Bei­jing’s Cap­i­tal Theater after be­ing in­vited by Bei­jing Peo­ple’s Art Theater. In Novem­ber, the play will re­turn to China in a tour of four cities: Bei­jing, Wuhan, Guangzhou and Shang­hai.

“Ev­ery year, Bei­jing Peo­ple’s Art Theater in­vites for­eign the­aters to stage their clas­sic productions. Among them, Gesher theater’s Vil­lage im­pressed me the most,” says Lan Tianye, the 89-year-old ac­tor and di­rec­tor, who has been with Bei­jing Peo­ple’s Art Theater since 1952.

Gesher has come to Bei­jing four times with sev­eral productions, in­clud­ing En­e­mies: A Love Story, A Pi­geon and a Boy, Vil­lage and Don Juan.

“I was touched by the story of Vil­lage, the act­ing of the en­sem­ble as well as how the theater in­ter­prets a story that hap­pened in the 1940s with pi­o­neer­ing ap­proaches,” Lan says.

Is­raeli play­wright Joshua Sobol tells the story of an in­no­cent boy named Yossi, who lives in a small vil­lage and wit­nesses the fears, love, hopes and dreams of the peo­ple against the back­drop of World War II.

Sobol, in his 70s now, is known for his po­lit­i­cal plays, which en­gage with sen­si­tive is­sues, such as the Holo­caust, Arab-Is­raeli re­la­tions and re­li­gious fa­nati­cism. He drew in­spi­ra­tion from his own child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in Pales­tine in the 1940s.

Vil­lage has toured world­wide for more than 700 times.

Gesher di­rec­tor Lena Kreindlin has de­scribed the play as “a mile­stone” not only in the history of her own theater but of Is­raeli theater as a whole.

While some found­ing mem­bers of the theater have died, she says, their chil­dren have con­tin­ued their ca­reer by act­ing with Gesher, car­ry­ing on its tra­di­tion.

Chi­nese play­wright Wan Fang, daugh­ter of China’s late lit­er­ary icon Cao Yu, who was the founder of the Bei­jing Peo­ple’s Art Theater, says: “The Rus­sian ac­tors’ ex­pe­ri­ence of em­i­gra­tion al­lowed them to iden­tify with the char­ac­ters in Vil­lage.

“When the cast came to Bei­jing last year, I learned that they brought their own child­hood mem­o­ries into the act­ing.

“For them it was a way of con­nect­ing with this place that has be­come their new home. This is an ex­pe­ri­ence lots of peo­ple share nowa­days. Lots of young peo­ple im­mi­grate into big­ger cities to live and work. For them, home­town does not ex­ist in ge­og­ra­phy. It is in time and in their hearts,” Wan adds.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Gesher theater will tour China with one of its rep­re­sen­ta­tive productions, Vil­lage.

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