Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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21
D
av idow itz
— T
h e
I
srael i
D
rama
there would be a public to view art objects. In the same way the
Habimah theatrical company came to Palestine, fresh from the
training of Stanislavsky in Moscow and triumphant tours in
Europe. They came speaking a newly revived Hebrew richly
spiced with a Russian accent, playing a repertoire of dramas such
as The Dybbuk and The Golem, and translations of the great
Russian and European dramatists of some forty and fifty years
ago.
As the Russian accents of the Habimah and the Ohel theatres
gave way to Central European accents and later to native sabra
overtones, new theatrical companies sprang up with surprising
rapidity. Some started with high hopes of being avant-garde
couriers of advanced culture. Others started simply because of
actors, directors and stage people who felt there was no other life
for them but the theatre. A few companies were given initial
encouragement by the Cultural Department of the Histadruth, so
that they could bring plays to the outlying
kibbutzim
and settle-
ments. A few started with the avowed purpose of doing only
original Hebrew plays, thereby encouraging one of the most
neglected facets of the theatre. The Hebrew theatre is today at
the stage of development in which the United States theatre
found itself before the advent of Eugene O’Neill and the Prov-
incetown Players. There are good playhouses, good actors, good
imported plays; but a very sparse sprinkling of local playwrights
who write in their native language and native idiom.
Popularity of Original Hebrew Drama
Through the years there has been a spicing of local Hebrew
drama among the variegated translated imports. This is espe-
dally true of the satirical theatre which is mainly a commentary
on current events. Here was practically the only training ground
for local playwrights. The principal theatres, Habimah, Ohel,
Camerai and the newly formed Haifa Playhouse, all claim they
are making frantic efforts to find Hebrew plays of merit. There
is every reason to believe that practical considerations will be
invoked, since most of the original plays in the past season have
been box office successes. The present year is something of a
phenomenon because no less than five original plays have been
produced. There seems to be a sudden realization that the Israel
audience likes plays in its own language, even when they are not
classics and have not the glossy finish of many of the imported
hits. This favorable box office will undoubtedly influence the
theatres to give more than lip service to the original Hebrew
play and will encourage the writers who have been knocking in
vain on the theatrical stage door. Only by seeing the work on the