Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough takes measure of society with Shakespeare
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Times of Israel Presents

Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough takes measure of society with Shakespeare

The troupe is back to perform the Bard’s ever-relevant sex-centric social critique ‘Measure for Measure’ this August at the capital’s stunning Bloomfield Gardens

  • Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Yitz Woolf)
    Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Yitz Woolf)
  • Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)
    Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)
  • Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)
    Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)
  • Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)
    Performance of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' by Jerusalem's Theater in the Rough. (Courtesy)

Sex, power, corruption and a plot recalling the movie “Indecent Proposal.” No, it’s not the latest Netflix-bound Israeli soap opera, but a 400-year-old classic performed during August in a leafy park overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City walls at sunset. The themes of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” never get old.

Isabella is deeply religious and about to become a nun. When her brother Claudio is sentenced to death for getting his lover pregnant out of wedlock, Isabella is offered the chance to save him – but only if she agrees to be seduced by the corrupt man in charge, Angelo.

“Measure for Measure: In Motion” by Theater in the Rough will have nine performances August 14-27 at 5:30 p.m. in the Bloomfield Gardens behind the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Entrance is free of charge, and donations are welcome.

The play is directed by Beth Steinberg and performed en promenade in the open air, with the actors moving between different locations for different scenes as the audience follows them.

For those who find movement or hearing a problem, there is a special accessible performance at the Beit Moses home for the elderly in Jerusalem on August 23. Pre-performance workshops for children and adults will be held on August 18, 22 and 26, and there will an evening exploring “Measure for Measure” and the Talmud with theater scholar Dr. Yair Lipshitz on August 20. (For more details, see below or click HERE).

“’Measure for Measure’ is a story of morality, family, love, and right and wrong. It leaves us asking what lengths would we go to, to save someone else, at peril to ourselves,” says Abigail Ellis, who plays Isabella.

Performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ by Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough. (Yitz Woolf)

“This is a story that needs to be told, especially in today’s world with the #metoo movement. It’s unfortunately one we are all too familiar with, and the fact that this was written about 400 years ago, yet still persists, is a fascinating and terrifying thing to think about,” she says.

Even across the centuries, Shakespeare’s insights into human frailties ring as true today as they did to the Elizabethans who first watched the play.

“It’s a play about sex and how society tries to deal with it – spoiler: not very well,” says Natan Skop, who plays Angelo and produced the show. “Like today, Shakespeare weaves political implications through personal decisions, exploring the boundaries of power and authority, life and death, spiritual and physical. While highly dramatic and very funny, the play leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth, unsure of how to fix the social fault lines that have been exposed.”

Regulars who have enjoyed previous Theater in the Rough productions will recognize some returning cast members. Shmuel Goldstein, a Theater in the Rough first-timer and grandfather of five, is a technical writer who spends his spare time as a medical clown at Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Beit Levenstein in Raanana.

“I am excited about it being in the open, and moving from scene to scene,” says Goldstein, who plays Escalus and Barnadine. “This is something that as an actor I have not done before, although I do it all the time as a medical clown. It is also a beautiful, world class location – behind the historic King David Hotel, with the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop. You couldn’t ask for a better stage.”

Performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ by Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough. (Yitz Woolf)

Theater in the Rough manages to present new insights for Shakespeare buffs while making the Bard’s lofty poetry accessible to those encountering him for the first time, especially children.

“I am excited to be a part of a theater company that is so unique,” says Sivan Raz, who plays Juliet and Abhorson. “Whether it is the choice to perform Shakespearean plays in their original language here in Israel, the site-specific performances out in the park, or the will to make the cultural asset that is Shakespeare accessible to all through education and free performances. Theater in the Rough is unlike anything I’ve ever done or even seen.”

Audiences should come “with strollers, beer and blankets to have a blast with our common cultural heritage,” says Amalyah Keshet, one of the costumes and props team that makes the production come alive.

Performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ by Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough. (Yitz Woolf)

Theater in the Rough presents:

Measure for Measure: In Motion
5:30 p.m. August 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27
Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem
(Behind King David Hotel)
Free Entrance (Suggested donation: NIS 35)

Pre-performance workshops for children and adults
Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem
(Behind King David Hotel)
4:00 p.m. August 18, 22, 26
Details: info@theaterintherough.co.il, or 052-5594257

Confessions and Tricks: Measure for Measure and the Talmud
Lecture by Dr. Yair Lipshitz
7:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 20
Caspi St., Talpiot, Jerusalem
Reservations: NIS 40
Tickets: info@theaterintherough.co.il, or 052-5594257

Accessible Performance
11:00 a.m., Friday, August 23
Beit Moses
52 Bethlehem Rd., Jerusalem
info@theaterintherough.co.il, or 052-5594257

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