My New “Necessary Stories” Program

Haim Watzman Last week I gave a sneak preview of my new “Necessary Stories” show and my hard work is paying off—the audience laughed and pondered and enjoyed. I’ll be polishing it up over the next couple months and then it will be ready to go on tour. I’ll be in the U.S. in late … Read more My New “Necessary Stories” Program

The Pleasure of Simple Truths: The Dragon’s Beloved at the Khan Theater

Haim Watzman

    <em>Vitali Friedland and Udi Rotschild in</em> The Dragon's Beloved <em>at the Khan</em>
Vitali Friedland and Udi Rotschild in The Dragon's Beloved at the Khan
We really didn’t feel like seeing a play last night. It’s true that our pre-purchased season tickets have in the past sent us to the theater at highly inappropriate moments. The night after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, when the country was still in shock and no one had thought to shut the theaters yet, we found ourselves at the Jerusalem Theater watching a production of The Good Soldier Schweik. That play begins with an actor shouting “The Archduke Ferdinand has been assassinated!” Halfway into the first act a man in the audience had a heart attack. The omens were clear. We should have stayed home.

But now I’m glad we didn’t learn that lesson. We tore ourselves away from the television’s images of the attack on Gaza to head for the Khan theater’s production of a new comedy, The Dragon’s Beloved, and good thing that we did.

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Rape Those Women! Slaughter Those Babies!–Why You Can’t Just Stage “Henry V” For The Hell Of It

Haim Watzman

Shannon Kisch, the director of Shakespeare Jerusalem’s initially promising but ultimately amorphous production of Henry V, at least has my daughter Mizmor on her side. At nearly midnight last night, as we walked home from The Lab (Jerusalem’s newest and finest stage), Mizmor said, “It’s nice for a change to see someone just do a Shakespeare play the way it’s written.”

Which is what Kisch, in her program notes, says she wanted to do. Recalling a conversation about the problems of staging this historical drama, she writes: “The sentence I remember most clearly, and that which made the most sense to me, was this: ‘Why don’t you just tell the story?’”

I love my daughter and respect her opinions, and I sincerely admire Shakespeare Jerusalem’s ambition to stage the Bard’s works for Israeli audiences, but this production is a textbook demonstration of exactly why you can’t just “just tell the story.”

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Missing the Point: Mohammed Kacimi’s “Holy Land” at the Khan

Haim Watzman

“On both sides of a war, unity is reflexive, not intentional or premeditated. To disobey is to breach that elemental accord, to claim a moral separateness (or moral superiority), to challenge one’s fellows, perhaps even to intensify the dangers they face,” Michael Walzer writes in his seminal Just and Unjust Wars. Walzer refers in this passage to the moral dilemma faced by the enlisted man, but the same dilemma is not foreign to civilians. Wanting to be part of our society and in discourse with it is not only elemental but also commendable. Being moral alone on a desert island is no great accomplishment. We admire those who seek and succeed in living an ethical life in human company.

The new production of the Algerian-born French playwright Mohammed Kacimi’s Holy Land (Terre Sainte) at South Jerusalem’s Khan Theater brings us face to face with this dilemma. Unfortunately, while director Nola Chilton’s production is powerful and unflagging, and the five actors passionate, the play itself disappoints. In addressing the dilemma of war in art, it is facile to do no more than to say that war is hell. A writer taking up the subject needs to delve into the complex and difficult questions that war raises.

Read moreMissing the Point: Mohammed Kacimi’s “Holy Land” at the Khan