Third annual Stage One Theatre Festival steals the show on Passover at Beit Avi Chai
Passover in Jerusalem is always an especially festive time, and not only thanks to the breathtaking spring flora, now in full bloom, that provides for astoundingly beautiful, postcard worthy scenery at every turn. March and April in the Holy City are jam packed with an almost endless lineup of cultural events and festivals. March's Old City Music Festival and Jerusalem Arts Festival are now behind us, the International Ice Festival is still going strong, and loads of fun at the city's wide variety of cultural venues and attraction spots awaits residents and visitors of all ages over the upcoming holiday.
Now in its third year, Beit Avi Chai's "Stage One" English speaking theatre festival has become one of the capital's mainstay spring holiday events, and will once again take center stage over the intermediate days of the holiday with three evenings of stand up and improv, live music and theatre performances.
The festival aims to address the growing need in recent years for dialogue between the English-speaking immigrant and native Israeli communities in Jerusalem. Forward-thinking, question-loving cultural center Beit Avi Chai encourages interaction between the city's various cultural factions, serving as a hothouse for thought provoking, productive discussion about Israeli and Jewish identity through its wide variety of courses and lecture series as well as a rich, ever changing lineup of festivals, theatre and music performances, and shows.
The first two "Stage One" festivals were mainly limited to amateur English-speaking theatre productions, but thanks to the festival's popularity and success in the past two years, this year's festival will also feature top quality live music performances, including the Fountainheads Ensemble, now a YouTube sensation, the "Kolot" a cappella choir, and the Jerusalem A Cappella Ensemble. Likewise, this year's theatre performances include shows produced by professional theatre groups, among them a Winnipeg Jewish Theatre production which is currently a finalist for the Canada Council for the Arts Governor General's Literary Award.
Rafi Poch, the festival's artistic director, chatted with GoJerusalem about the festival's development over the years: "The first year, the festival hosted only English-speaking, Jerusalem-based, community theatre, but now that the festival has become a so successful, we opened the doors to English-speaking community theaters from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, and other places around Israel. In past years, we had exactly the number of shows we needed to put on the festival and no more. This year, we received more requests than we could accommodate, so much so that we had to turn people away, including eight shows from professional overseas theatre groups, mostly from North America. We did decide to include one foreign performance, that of the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, since from a technical point of view, it fit in with the theme of the festival."
This year's festival deals with topics related to Jewish and/or Israeli identity, and Poch noted that "every participating performance reflects some aspect of the dialogue surrounding these issues. We looked for plays that highlight the various aspects of the contemporary discussion between Jews of the diaspora and Israelis in Israel, and in this context the Winnipeg production, which tells the story of two friends living on opposite ends of the Jewish spectrum, was thematically appropriate."
Also new to this year's festival is a monologue contest. "We hoped to give expression to independent artists who want to write and present their own spin on the values the festival represents," Poch explained. The competition, called "Jeneration J," a Jewish play on the phrase "Generation X", uses the medium of independent, creative monologue to show how the question of Jewish and Israeli identity is expressed and understood in the differences and gaps between generations. "People wrote the most amazing things," Poch gushed. "We chose ten monologues, and there's definitely a lot to look forward to, including a surprise appearance by a well-known comedian from New York as one of the contest's judges."
The "Stage One Festival" will take place at Beit Avi Chai over the intermediate days of Passover on April 8, 9, and 10. Click below to see the full schedule for each day:
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