Article - Theater Personalities
The Hebrew and Israeli theater constitutes an important element of modern Israeli Hebrew culture. The founders of the Hebrew theater, and their successors after the State of Israel was established, faced considerable difficulties and challenges. Although many of the pioneers of Hebrew theater who immigrated to pre-state Israel – both actors and directors – had prior professional experience, the circumstances of the time and place demanded creating from scratch: establishing and institutionalizing theaters that would function professionally on an ongoing basis; attracting and nurturing audiences; molding and consolidating a modern Hebrew theatrical vocabulary; and augmenting the tradition of Hebrew dramaturgy.
The new Hebrew theater made extensive use of a wide range of translated plays, including translated Yiddish plays, which constituted a significant part of the theater repertoire in the early days, alongside Hebrew plays written and published in Italy [when?]. These plays, however, could not serve as a substitute for original Hebrew drama springing from Eretz Yisrael.
A substantive change occurred during the pre-state period and especially with the establishment of the state. A new generation of actors, directors and playwrights emerged who contributed importantly to molding an original style of Hebrew-Israeli theater in terms of lexicon, milieu, characterization and relevant context – the War of Independence, mass immigrations, the immigrant transit camps, development towns, and the encounter between ethnic groups and cultures.
Moshe Halevy (1895-1974), seminal director, a founder of the Habimah Theater group in Russia, Israel Prize laureate, founder of the Ohel Theater (1925) and director of it until 1950. Halevy devoted himself to molding an original Eretz Yisrael Hebrew directorial and acting style influenced both by Eastern folklore, as exemplified by the [his?] Biblical play, Jacob and Rachel (1928), and by traditional Jewish shtetl stories. The plays he directed represent a highly eclectic selection of topics and genres: Biblical and historical, Eretz Yisrael, translations from Yiddish, and translations of classical works, especially Shakespeare and Moli?re.
Joseph Millo (1916-1997), director, actor and Israel Prize laureate. Millo founded the Cameri Theater in 1944, serving as a director and as managing director of it until 1956. Thereafter, during 1961-1967, he served as artistic director of the Haifa Theater. His contribution to the Israeli theater was reflected in three key areas: (1) He developed qualitative professional theater in every aspect: directing, acting, sets, music, etc.; (2) He staged the finest examples of classic and modern drama, from Shakespeare to Berthold Brecht, Lorca, Friedrich Durrenmatt and others; and (3) He encouraged original Hebrew and Israeli drama.
Nissim Aloni (1926-1998), playwright, director, storyteller, translator, laureate of the Israel Prize and the Bialik Prize. Aloni's first play, The King is Cruelest of All (Habimah Theater, 1953), a Biblical play about the kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam, made an important and original contribution to modern Biblical drama. Thereafter, his writing style and content changed significantly. He developed a distinctive personal style that was acute and brilliant, highly theatrical, blending poetry and prose, fantasy and reality. His plays were not "Israeli" in their immediate context but had implications regarding the modern history of the country and contemporary realities. He directed his own theater, The Theater of the Seasons, from 1963-1965, producing and directing his own as well as translated plays.
Shai K. Ophir (1928-1987), (Isaiah Goldstein) Jerusalem-born director and stage and screen actor. He created a distinctive original acting style by molding characters who embodied the Israeli venue, culture, social and ethnic identity, vocabulary, gestures and style of speech in such films as Azulai the Policeman and The Fox in the Henhouse, and especially in his one-man shows. His characterizations were conceived not as parodies for the purpose of entertainment but as authentic portraits that became a cornerstone of Israeli humor. He was the country's first professional mime, imbuing pantomime with its deserved status in Israeli theatrical culture.
Professor Ben-Ami Feingold
Descriptions of the stamps
Photographs of scenes from productions relating to each personality are
shown on the tab.
Moshe Halevy: Jacob and Rachel
Joseph Millo: He Walked in the Fields
Nissim Aloni: The Gypsies of Jaffa
Shai K. Ophir: About Masks and People – A
Pantomime Festival, and Azulai the Policeman
Special thanks to the Israel Center for Theartrical Arts, Tel Aviv University.
The illustration of Shai. K. Ophir is based a photograph by Asaf Shilo, Israel Sun Ltd.