Gesher Theater: A Russian Miracle of the Israeli Theatre

Image courtesy of Gesher Theater

A great example of the resilience of Israeli culture and the strength of its arts is the founding of the Gesher Theater in 1991. During the first Gulf War, a group of Russian actors under the leadership of Yevgeny Arye, a prominent stage director from Moscow, immigrated to Israel and in a bold move, founded a theatre symbolically named Gesher: “a bridge” in Hebrew. Actors often ran to the nearest shelter in their costumes and gas masks, as sirens wailed to warn of an Iraqi missile attack.

Arye and his actors were not intimidated and Gesher Theater’s first production of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in April of 1991 was lauded as “The Russian Miracle of the Israeli Theatre.”

Twenty one years later, Arye remains the director and has been noted for the creative blend of traditional Russian theater with new theatrical techniques, a mixture which has become Gesher’s theatrical trademark. The theatre produces many classical plays and novels adapted to present-day artistic notions, but also stages quite a number of plays by contemporary Playwrights. It is probably the only theatre where rehearsals are conducted simultaneously in three languages and where the same actors perform alternately in Hebrew and Russian.

Over the years Gesher theatre has lived up to its symbolic name and has become a bridge between Russian and Israeli cultures. The theatre has incorporated many Israeli actors into its ranks, its productions are currently mostly in Hebrew, it has moved into a permanent home in Jaffa; it has staged over 60 productions, represented Israel in more than 17 international festivals

As part of our very unique and trip, we’ll visit the theater and meet with Arye, (a great honor!) who will give us an in-depth history of Russian theater and its contemporary importance. Its current home and permanent residence at the Noga Theater in Jaffa is as a gift from the City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa in appreciation of Gesher’s theatrical contribution to Israeli culture.

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