As rockets continue to fall in central Israel and even further north, S. Asher Gelman, a Maryland native who immigrated to Israel in 2006, was hoping on Wednesday that Tel Avivians would scurry not into bomb shelters, but toward Beit Yad Labanim.
That’s because Gelman, the artistic director for The Stage, an English-language performing arts organization in Tel Aviv, was gearing up for opening night of The Stage’s One-Act play festival. The performance space, he says, is as secure as any protected room in the city.
“It’s a reinforced building built into the side of a hill,” says Gelman of Beit Yad Labanim, which sits on Pinkas street near Namir Boulevard. “It’s very safe.”
Beit Yad Labanim’s director Giora Spiro adds that while the building itself is not classified as a public shelter, its theater hall, which has no windows and sits in the center of the building, is where he and his staff go whenever there is a rocket siren. That means that theatergoers who are already in their seats wouldn’t need to move if a siren goes off in the middle of the performance.
“It’s not a bomb shelter, it’s a theater,” Spiro clarifies. “But every place of business have to has a space that is safe to move people into, and that’s our theater. It’s safe to be in.”
Besides, Gelman adds, Tel Avivians – like all Israelis this week – should take the opportunity to laugh. The festival, he says, which features the work of six local playwrights, is largely comedic – topics of the short plays include construction workers trying to one-up each other on their lunch breaks; a Bulgarian family scheming about how to make it to America; and a face-off between parents at a birthday party when one of their children pees on the birthday cake.
“The idea was that we really wanted to grow the arts community,” Gelman sayas. “The one-act festival is a great way to get people involved in all aspects of the productions.”
The festival opens Wednesday night at 8 p.m., with performances also scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Guy Seemann, one of the creators of The Stage, insists that the show will go on whatever the security situation.
“Forget about the missiles – the theater is buried into a hill, so you are safer,” he says. “And I can promise you, you are better entertained with us than at home.”