Article - Habimah National Theatre Centenial 12/9/2017
Habima National Theater Centennial
The Habima National Theater was founded by Nachum Zemach, Menachem Gensin and Hanna Rovina in Moscow in 1917 under the name "The Hebrew Language Theater".
Zemach met with Konstantin Stanislavski, director of the Moscow Art Theater, who agreed to make Habima an Art Theater studio and appointed his student Yevgeny Vakhtangov to be the artistic instructor for the "Habima Young Hebrews Company". Stalin, who served as the Minister for Minority Affairs at the time, personally approved the endeavor.
The first play performed by Habima was Neshef Bereshit, directed by Vakhtangov in 1918. But the theater's first true claim to fame came in 1922, with the play The Dybbuk and the especially noted performance by Hanna Rovina. Her legendary portrayal of Leah, the bride who was possessed by the dybbuk, later became one of the iconic symbols of the Habima Theater.
The members of Habima immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1928. The actors decided the theater would be managed as an egalitarian entity. It became a collective in which all members were equal owners and managers. The first play performed in Eretz Israel was The Treasure, which premiered on November 29, 1928. The Habima National Theater building was opened in 1945 and continues to house the theater to this day.
The theater performed translated versions of international plays as well as original Hebrew works, the first of which was Guards by Ever Hadani in 1937. In the 1950's Habima began to produce plays by rising Israeli authors and playwrights such as Moshe Shamir, Aharon Megged and Ephraim Kishon.
Most Cruel the King, the first play written by Nisim Aloni for Habima, in collaboration with artist Yosl Bergner who created the scenery, premiered in 1953. Aloni greatly influenced Habima and since then the Theater has performed six more of his plays.
In 1958, a decade after the State of Israel was established, Habima was declared by the government to be the National Theater of Israel and it was granted the Israel Prize for Theater that same year.
The collective was disbanded in 1969. It was replaced by a board of trustees, who appointed a general manager and an artistic director. In the 1970's the Theater continued to stage original works by playwrights Hillel Mittelpunkt, Yehoshua Sobol and Ephraim Kishon.
The play Winter Funeral, written and directed by Hanoch Levin, was performed in 1978 and since then Habima has staged six other Levin plays. Habima performed both Jewish plays and international dramas and in the 1990's, artistic director Ilan Ronen established the Habima Young Company. Since 2000 a wide range of classic, modern, Israeli and Jewish plays as well as musicals have been performed on the Habima stage.
From 1918 to the present, Habima has staged 706 different plays. Les Miserables was the theater's 700th production.
In 2012, the remodeled Habima Theater building was inaugurated after 4 1/2 years of renovation, during which time Habima productions were performed in alternate venues.
The Habima National Theater Centennial marks Habima not only as Israel's national theater, but also its place as the first Hebrew theater, in which hundreds of actors and creators have taken part over the last century. Habima is a leader in all aspects of its work: playwriting, direction, acting, music and design.
In its 100th year, Habima represents the multicultural weave of Israeli society, expressing its characteristic diversity, complexity and conflicts.
General Manager, Habima National Theater
Description of the Stamp
The stamp features a theatrical scene depicting the different aspects of Habima Theater:
Drawing of legendary actress Hanna Rovina portraying the bride in The Dybbuk.
Imaginary scene in which the bride herself writes the play on a typewriter.
Stage curtain decorated with musical noted.
"Uprise" – statue by Menashe Kadishman that stands in the Habima courtyard.
Audience seated in the theater watching a play.
Typographic design of the words "Habima National Theater Centennial" comprised of various different letters and styles.