Hero, madman or fool, Don Quixote has reigned as a cultural symbol for the past 400 years, ever since Miguel de Cervantes published the hefty tome (first volume in 1605, and second volume in 1615). The gentleman’s penchant for romantic chivalry and battling lost causes not only influenced the development of the novel, literary history and Broadway, but even introduced the adjective “quixotic” into everyday parlance. As in these treacherous times one must be a hero/mad/fool to embark on any cultural venture, it is quite fitting that Gesher Theatre launch their 25th anniversary season with a new play – I, Don Quixote – written by Roee Chen, inspired by Cervantes’ masterpiece, and directed by Gesher Theatre Artistic Director Yevgeny Arye. The leading role will be portrayed alternately by Israel (Sasha) Demidov and Doron Tavory, so that, in effect, Gesher will be presenting two versions of the play.
“We have been thinking of working with this novel for many years, and Israel is precisely the place to stage this play,” Arye stated in a press meeting that took place at the theatre this morning, “but it has been a challenge to find the key to unlock this work.” He commented that despite its prominence in popular culture, few people have actually read the novel in full, implying perhaps that in considering the audience one cannot rely on a deep knowledge of the novel. Arye emphasized that the play is not an adaptation of Cervantes’ work, but an original play inspired by the novel and its major themes.
Arye stated that this is an important production for Gesher Theatre for several reasons: “Literature is disappearing from the lives of people, especially young people, but in also in general. The play focuses on the role of the book in a person’s life, and in the lives of the play’s two protagonists. It is an homage to Cervantes’ novel. It is also important because cynicism has become second nature in this region, the character of Quixote was problematic even during Cervantes’ time. Then it may have caused one to raise an eyebrow, today we simply see him as insane for living in opposition to cynicism.”
In regard to the casting, Arye emphasized that this is not an instance of ‘double casts’ and said, “We found two excellent performers for the same role.” Rehearsals are currently underway, with a deadline looming – I, Don Quixote is set to open on June 29, 2015. The play is rehearsed separately with each of the actors, in practical terms this means that each has only half the time to work on the play, while Alexander Senderovich as Sancho Panza is working double shifts. Israel (Sasha) Demidov and Doron Tavory are each developing their character under the direction of Yevgeny Arye, and neither actor knows what his counterpart is doing. Each of these actors brings a rich background, depth and range of ability to this role, yet with very different stage presence and style, inviting curiosity as to their individual interpretations in this role.
More intriguing offerings from Gesher in the coming season:
Erez Driges will direct Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph, which Driges translated from English. Naomi Levov and Yuval Yanai portray Doug and Kayleen, two friends who encounter one another over a period of 30 years, from age 8 to 38, and the various injuries they sustain along the way. The first performance will take place on August 27, 2015 in the Gesher Hangar.
Noam Shmuel will direct Animal Farm, adapted by Peter Hall from George Orwell’s novel, and translated by Daniel Efrat. The play will be performed by the Gesher Junior Ensemble, graduates of the Yoram Leowenstein Performing Arts Studio. The first performance will take place on September 17, 2015.
Irad Rubinstein will direct Mr. Vertigo, adapted from Paul Auster’s novel by Yoav Shoten-Goshen and Irad Rubinstein. The first performance will take place on October 29, 2015.
Gesher’s play for children, The Adventures of Odysseus, written by Roee Chen based on Homer’s epic poem, has brought about a new play. After each performance of Odysseus, the children in the audience are invited to meet the director and cast, and talk about the play. The many questions about the theatre generated in these conversations have resulted in a new play, The Spirit of the Theatre, written by Roee Chen. Directed by Noam Shmuel, it is scheduled to premiere during Hannukah, it was composed as a creative response to questions such as: How does a play come into being? How do actors learn their lines? How do you make a snow storm onstage? The play tells of a girl who comes into the theatre and encounters a ghost, the spirit of the theatre, who unveils the mysteries of this land of pretend. The first performance will take place on December 8, 2015.
More to come in 2016… Midnight East will update, and consult the Gesher Theatre website for tickets and additional information.