Making Theater in Wartime

This summer, I’m grateful to William Shakespeare. For writing the kind of material that keeps audiences coming back for more, 450 years later, and while rockets fall and war rages on only 56 kilometers away.

When we chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream sometime last fall, we had no idea that this summer would be one of fear and war, of bloodshed and loss, of sadness and mourning for so many.

Coming on the heels of last year’s successful run of Richard III, we were eager for a comedy. For some laughter and silliness, let alone frolicking in the forest – in this case, Bloomfield Gardens in Jerusalem – in the company of lovers, faeries and working-class mechanicals.

It’s a balm to our senses and it opens Thursday, August 7th in Jerusalem. Join us and breathe.

One of Theater in the Rough‘s dedicated players hails from Omer, south of Beersheva. This is Tamar Naggan’s third season with us. This year, she’s playing Titania. She travels 220 kilometers, round trip, 2-3-4 times weekly for rehearsals with us. This summer, that’s been particularly challenging, especially as it meant leaving her two children at home – close to the safe room – but without mom nearby in case of a siren.

YITZ WOOLF PHOTOGRAPHY: Midsummer Night's Dream &emdash; Tamar writes: “I am very proud to say that I am a third-time participant in a small theater ensemble called, Theater in the Rough. This is the theater’s fifth season, and for the past two months I have been driving from Omer (a municipality 5 minutes from Beersheva) to Jerusalem, in order to take part in the magic that occurs each August in Bloomfield Park.

Needless to say, this season has been greatly affected by the war. Each time I get into the car there is the tension of what might happen on the way – and unpleasant things have happened; being on the road while the sirens are ringing and not knowing where to hide – where is safe or not; encountering gunshots and flying rocks thrown by our Bedouin neighbors while trying to enter Omer; having a suspicious car with Arabs inside drive by honking at me to pull over for no good reason and then making a U-turn and going God knows where; hearing of roads being closed because of the fear of terrorist infiltration, and having to find alternative roads to get to my coveted destination.

And I have not missed one rehearsal.

Back on the ranch – Beersheva has become a ghost town – many stores are closed and people only venture out for necessities. My two young children have had to spend their summer indoors instead of at summer camp. They know the drill of going to the shelter and they know which sirens are for Beersheva and which are for Omer, how the defensive explosions look, and that their mom is leaving them with babysitters in order to participate in a play.

So why do I do this?

My nine year old son said it perfectly: “Anyone who messes with my mom’s art and creativity will have to deal with me!”

This play is my island of sanity in our chaos. It is a chance to remember what we are living for – to laugh, to be silly, and to bring that energy back home to my children. If it weren’t for the Skop-Steinberg family who are our fearless leaders in this venture, and whom I love dearly, I would probably join the many citizens of the South who are too depressed and scared to continue trying to live normally.

But, these are not normal times.

We are crying for the devastated families that have lost their loved ones – something that every mother cannot bear to watch. We are shocked by the clashes between left and right – causing even more uncertainty, and at the same time dealing with endless hypocritical criticism from other countries. Let’s put aside all this, just for a few hours, and enjoy A Midsummer’s Night Dream – a fantastic play that also reminds us that there is still so much brotherly love among Israelis, and that we are one very special and humanistic people – of which I am very proud to be a member.”

Tamar Naggan lives in Omer with her two children. Tamar teaches English at Sapir college and in the fall will begin teaching orchestra, singing and English at the Waldorf school in Beersheva. in her spare time she plays the viola in chamber groups and performs in Speakeasies: A Jerusalem Cabaret


About the Author
Beth Steinberg is the Executive Director and co-founder of Shutaf, Inclusion Programs for Children with Special Needs in Jerusalem. A believer in Jewish camping, Beth is a graduate of Massad and Ramah camps, where she learned the importance of informal education programs as a platform for teaching Jewish and social values. As a parent of a child with special needs, she struggled to find workable, appropriate activities for her child. Beth believes that a well-run inclusion program can help educate and change values, creating meaningful and lasting social change. Beth is also the Artistic Director of Theater in the Rough, engaging audiences with free summer Shakespeare.