by Haim Watzman
A program for the Mikro Theatre's Jerusalem Theater Arts Festival
Sukkot, October 2023
Theater and Theology will produce a *Bibliodrama on the book of Hoshea prior to a staged reading of The Chair by Haim Watzman, followed by a discussion with the audience that will help to tweak the play for its 2024 theater premiere. The program is an immersive, interactive experience in which audiences both experience and take part in the creation of a piece of theater.
Haim Watzman’s The Chair, Winner of the Theater Institute Award of The Szymon Szurmiej Contemporary Jewish Drama International Competition, Warsaw in 2021, is a reimagining of the biblical book of Hosea in contemporary Israel’s mix of culture, religion, and politics.
Michal, a young woman who has just separated from her husband, Shaya, a labor activist for whom she's more a symbol than a human being, rents a dilapidated apartment in which Lily, an austere and elderly Moroccan woman recently died, sitting on a chair facing her bedroom window. Ofek, the woman’s younger son, tells Michal that the condition of renting the apartment is that she must not move a single thing in the apartment, which must, by tradition, be kept for a year just as it was when his mother died—including the chair placed before the bedroom. Orel, a Shas missionary, tries to bring Michal closer to religion and find her a new husband, and Gomer, a mentally challenged neighbor from the housing project, wanders through the apartment clutching three dolls she claims are her children. In parallel, Shaya and Gomer play out the story of Hosea and the harlot he takes as a wife at God’s command. On her first night in the apartment, Michal sits in the chair and looks out over the courtyard and begins to understand both Lily and herself, falling in love with Ofek in the process.
Like the book of Hosea, The Chair pits extremes of realism against metaphor, piety against sin, passion against indifference, and austerity against indulgence. It is an exploration of how prophetic vision might play out and touch on contemporary issues that are thousands of years old.
Hol hamo'ed Sukkot, October 3 & 5, 2023
Hebrew Union College. Parts of the program will be outside, in the beautiful grounds. Part will be inside the historic building.
This event is for an English-speaking audience that wishes to experience a powerful piece of theater. Audience members will take part in shaping the experience for themselves via the preceding Bibliodrama process. They will also be active in shaping the process for the playwright and troupe via the discussion after the play with the actors, playwright and director that may lead to changes in the script and staging for the future. This is an opportunity for audience members to take an active role in the creation of theater and to immerse themselves in both the biblical story and contemporary Jerusalem. This experience will be enhanced by the HUC location—a beautiful institution that itself physically and philosophically embodies a conversation and cooperation between tradition and the contemporary.
Because each audience member is critical to this theatrical exercise, we will limit the audience to about 40 per performance.
Note that The Chair includes adult themes and content (as does the biblical book of Hoshea). It is not suitable for children.
11: 40 – doors open.
12:00 – A Bibliodrama on the biblical book of Hoshea in the HUC library in preparation for the reading of The Chair.
13:15 – Break for a discussion/chatting in the HUC succah. Bring your lunch or a snack if you like.
13:45 – Staged reading of The Chair by Haim Watzman
15:15 – A short break after which audience members will fill out a questionnaire about the play followed by a discussion about the production with the playwright and director. We want your input!
16:30 – End
On October 3rd, the Bibliodrama will be led by master Bibliodramatist Yael Unterman. (More information about Yael U. and her teaching here.)
On October 5th, the Bibliodrama will be led by director Yael Valier. (More information about Yael V. and her teaching here.)
Haim Watzman’s Necessary Stories appeared in The Times of Israel every four weeks for several years. He is the author of Company C, A Crack in the Earth, and a collection, Necessary Stories. For more information on his books, and an archive of all his Necessary Stories, visit www.Southjerusalem.com.
*Bibliodrama, a creative method of study created by Peter Pitzele in 1984, combines a close reading of biblical texts with searching, imaginative questions. Participants answer questions in the first person, as characters in the story. Bibliodrama offers people of all levels of knowledge an opportunity to experience the text in a way that has changed the way we read the Bible. No acting and no prior experience is required. Shy people are welcome! Read more about Bibliodrama at http://www.bibliodrama.com.
CAST & CREW
Sarit Brown (Gomer), a graduate of the Eidan Lipper Musical Theater Academy, is a veteran of the English-speaking theater community, both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Sarit has acted and sung many different roles, most recently Carla in Starcatcher's In the Heights and a lead in Israel Musicals' The Four. Though she primarily enjoys performing, she is also an accomplished hair and makeup artist. Her artistic flair has won her positions in costuming and set design, too.
Sandy Cash (Orel) is a veteran stage performer whose musical theater credits including “Hello Dolly” (Dolly), "Next to Normal" (Diana), "A Little Night Music" (Desiree), "Pippin" (Berthe), "The Sound of Music" (Mother Superior), and "The King and I" (Anna). She has also appeared in "Our Town" (Stage Manager), and “The Tempest” (Prospero). A member of the original Hebrew casts of “Les Misérables” and “Evita”, Sandy is a songwriter and recording artist (www.sandycash.com).
Natan Goldstein (Ofek) has been performing with the English-speaking theater community of Jerusalem since he was 11 years old. He played the Narrator in Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat, Reuven in The Chosen, the Bishop in Les Miserables, Tock in The Phantom Tollbooth, Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice and Brother Nathan in Divine Right. Natan also used to perform with the Hamra Playback Troupe.
Howard (Shaya/Hoshea) trained at Circle in the Square Theatre School in NY and has been acting for decades in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Recent credits include Rabbi Schmidt in Theater and Theology's In a Stranger's Grave, Joe in Theater and Theology's Off the Derech Dolorosa, and Pablo in Theater and Theology’s Divine Right. Howard also recently appeared in Assassins, Avenue Q, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Layla Rojas (Michal). Rhinoceros Productions: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Honey), JPT at the Khan: As You Like It (Celia), J-Town Playhouse: Merrily We Roll Along (Mary). Directing: Next to Normal, First Date, Avenue Q, Assassins (J-Town). Favorite Cleveland credits include at Ensemble Theatre: The Iceman Cometh (Margie), Waiting for Lefty (Edna, Dr. Benjamin), Sexual Perversity in Chicago (Deborah), Great Lakes Theatre: An Ideal Husband (Mrs. Marchmont), Cleveland Shakespeare Festival: Love's Labour's Lost (Boyet). B.A. Spanish & Theater (Lawrence University), M.A. Linguistics (Hebrew University). TV: Madrasa (episode 5) directed by Guri Alfi.