by Israeli playwright Yossefa Even-Shoshan deals with the subject of creation
through the life-story of Shlomo Ibn-Gabirol, the greatest of the Spanish
poets of the Golden Age, who created a woman for himself out of his longing
and feverish artistic imagination.
Directed as a ritual theater
piece by Geula Jeffet Attar, the play deals with the subject of creation, how
"something" is born of "nothing," and how that which is
concealed becomes reality. The 11th century poet Shlomo Ibn-Gabirol, an ill
man, alone, and ascetic, creates a woman for himself out of his longing and
feverish artistic imagination. Human creation, with all of its pain, suffering,
and joy of creation, is transformed through the production into a ritualized
reflection of the divine act of creation. The production rides primarily on
movement, drawn from middle-eastern sources, and music, a combination of arabic
violin and cello.
The poet is inflicted with
an incurable skin disease, which he imagines to be a type of leprosy and a punishment
for his sins. He attempts to comfort himself through the imaginary woman, whom
he dreams about and has yearned for all his life. He calls to her in his poems,
and she takes on and discards various forms: the girl he fell in love with in
his youth, the mother who cares for him in illness and cures his wounds, the
perfect woman of his dreams, and a dangerous femme fatal who excites his sensuality.
The poet plays freely with this creation of his imagination, but when she desires
to become a flesh and blood woman and bear his child, he undoes his beads and
sends her back to the Great Nothingness.
If this reminds you of the
Golem, you're right. Creation themes abound in Jewish history and myth. This
particular story is inspired primarily by "Sefer Hametzaref" by R.
Sholmo Del-Medigo (probably a doctor, writing in 1625), which states, in part,
"and they said of R' Shlomo Ibn Gabirol that he had created a woman and
she was serving him; and when they informed on him he showed them that she
was not a complete being and returned her to the pieces of wood and joints
that she had been fashioned from."
It is also inspired by various
commentaries on the more widely-known Golem myth, by facts from Shlomo Ibn-Gabirol's
biography, poems, philosophical works which deal with the structure of matter
and the soul ("The Source of Life" and "The Healing of the Soul's
Attributes"), and the pinnacle work of Ibn-Gabirol's career, "Keter
Malkhut," which examines the process of creation and formation. The production
moves associatively through fabrication, memory, and poetry, with the intention
of creating a dramatic form which is similar to a poem. It is a composite of
verses, movement sequences and spoken passages in English, Hebrew and Arabic
(the language in which the poet wrote his philosophical works). All these are
knit together with live music performed onstage by Yuval Mesner (cello) and
Ihab Nimer (violin, oud). The lighting, which will be the primary stage design,
will attempt to follow the Kabbalistic emanation process which occurs during
the creation of Something out of Nothingness.
Shlomo Ibn-Gabirol lived
during the Spanish Golden Age, an era when Jewish and Moslem cultures were
intertwined in poetry, music, philosophy and customs. His writings fused
Arab rhymes with classical Hebrew language. This production demonstrates
these connections through its lyrical stage language of poetry, movement
and music and its combination of Jewish and Arab actors and musicians a
sort of cultural respite from the hatred and tension building up in the Middle
an "Award of Excellence" when it was presented in October 2001 at
the Acco Festival, the only festival for alternative theater in Israel. Michael
Hendelzeltz, writing in Haaretz, stated, "The production projected the
enchanted atmosphere of a time when Hebrew culture was part and parcel of the
Islamic experience. Victor Attar was most impressive as the mysterious poet
and Mira Anwar Awad charmed me as an imaginary woman: such a degree of nobility
and beauty in her acting, song, and movement! When she seduces the poet, she
captivates the audience with her abundant, easy, graceful charm. When Ibn Gabirol
banishes her from his life, the heart breaks. Through her presence, she creates
many moments of theatrical magic."
Actor Victor Attar, born
in Bagdad, immigrated to Israel at 14. He was a leading member of Tel Aviv's
municipal theater, Hacamery, and later of Jerusalem's repertory, The Kahn
Theatre. He wrote and performed the avant-garde play, "The Road," which began
La MaMa Tel Aviv. He achieved prominence in New York for his performance in
the La MaMa production of Fernando Arrabal's "The Architect and the Emperor
of Assyria." For the past few years, he and his closest collaborator,
director Geula Jeffet Attar, have been devoting their efforts to New York premieres
of modern Israeli plays and new avant-garde theatrical works adapting Jewish
literature and legends, all at La MaMa. Mira Anwar Awad is an emerging actress
and singer in Israel. Her mother is Bulgarian and her father is Arab Israeli.
She performs regularly in Almydan Arabic Theater in Nazareth and prolifically
records soundtracks for both movies and theatrical productions.
Playwright Yossefa Even-Shoshan
is author of nine plays. Her play, "The Last Demon," won the grand
prize in the Acco Festival in 1991. She also translates English and French-language
plays for the Israeli stage. Composer Yuval Mesner has scored seven plays to-date
and played with top Israeli musical artists. Musician Ihab Nimer, an Arab-Israeli
from Nazareth, graduated from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and is a composer
in his own right. Choreographer Ilana Cohen performed in Inbal Dance Theater
for 30 years and was assistant to its charismatic founder Sara Levi Tanai.
She is now the troupe's choreographer. Set and costume design are by Gal Shachak;
lighting design is by Uri Rubinstein; sound operator and musician is Yaniv
This production is supported
in part with funds from the New York-Israel Cultural Cooperation Commission,
a joint venture of the State of New York and the Government of Israel, and by
the Office of Cultural Affairs in the USA, Consulate General of Israel in New
York and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cultural and Scientific Relations