Some 200 English-speaking Tel Aviv residents crowded into the Beit Yad Lebanim theater on Saturday night for a rare event: a theatrical performance for and by the Anglo community.
The performance, opening night of a three-show run of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” was the debut production of The Stage TLV, a new English-based performing arts initiative in Tel Aviv. Seven Anglo locals created it with a desire to revive the English-speaking theater and arts scene left behind by the demise of Tel Aviv Community Theater (TACT), a now-defunct theater group that, in its heyday, offered English-speakers in the White City a wide range of performances. The Stage is working with the Tel Aviv Municipality to not only produce shows, but also create a new sort of community outreach.
While many professional theaters in Tel Aviv offer performances with subtitles, and groups such as comedy troupe Tziporela stage productions entirely English, the founding members of The Stage say their initiative stands apart but it’s not just about attending artistic performances, but also inviting English-speakers into every part of the production process.
“What a lot of [English speakers] miss is the community aspect of a performing arts community,” says S. Asher Gelman, a professional dancer and Washington, D.C. native who served as director of “The Vagina Monologues.” “Performing arts is about collaboration, and we thought, why not create a performing arts community rather than a community theater?”
Gelman, along with six other members of The Stage’s steering community, negotiated with the Tel Aviv Municipality to find a space – Beit Yad Lebanim – for their first production, and hope to continue to partner with the city on their future projects. Next in the works is a one-act theater festival, and submissions are open for any Tel Aviv Anglos interested in trying their hand at script-writing, acting or working backstage as part of the crew.
“The Stage is not just theater, but a platform to support any and all forms of art,” said Guy Seemann, a fellow member of the steering committee. “We aim to be a ‘stage’ where people, with even the most unique and out of the box ideas, will be able to realize their artistic dreams.”