Though Washington DC's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts lost its founder, Roger L. Stevens, Feb. 2, the theatre hasn't lost its footing. The Kennedy Center's just-announed 1998-99 season includes a new Athol Fugard drama, a Titanic tour, an early look at Footloose, and a rare American stage appearance for Derek Jacobi.
Before the new season, however, the Kennedy Center will play host to two Israeli theatre troupes, in celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary. Mar. 19-22 brings the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv's Itim Theatre Ensemble, offering Va Yomer, Va Yelech ("And He Said, And He Walked"). This biblical epic is the first part of Itim's massive "Bible Project," with Va Yomer covering the creation of the world and Va Yelech showing how Israel became a tribe under God.
Itim's production isn't Cecil B. DeMille turf, however. The approach is often experimental, with time handled cyclically to "allow history to repeat itself."
Va Yomer is conceived and directed by Itim's co-founder (with designer Moshe Sternfeld), Rina Yerushalmi. The four projects staged by the company since 1988 have been landmark mountings of Hamlet, Woyzeck, Romeo and Juliet and Va Yomer, Va Yelech.
Continuing the Kennedy Center's festival, "Art of the State: Israel at 50" will be the Gesher Theatre troupe, offering an adaptation of Isaac Babel's The City, Mar. 25-29. Performed in Hebrew with simultaneous English translation, The City looks at Jewish Odessa at the time of the Russian revolution. Yevgeny Arye directs this look at "wily merchants, brutal gangsters, sexy women and juicy con-men...populating the crowded ghetto of Odessa."
The Gesher troupe was formed in 1991 by emigrees from the Moscow Art Theatre ("gesher" means "bridge" in Hebrew). In
Capping the Festival, May 9, will be the wild performance art "Zik Group," mixing fire, water, steam and fireworks." They'll even blow up a statue commissioned by the Kennedy Center. Short for "zikkit" (Hebrew for "chameleon" or "spark") the Zik Group prides itself on "closely controlled anarchy in multimedia: theatre, sculpture and electronic semi-rock music."
For information on "Art of the State: Israel at 50" at the Kennedy Center call (800) 444-1324.
-- By David Lefkowitz