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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Rank and File: Putting English-language Theater Center Stage in Israel

As seen in Haaretz on June 6, 2019 by Steven Klein

Plus, 600 guests celebrate Jerusalem Day at a Shabbat Together event and J-Town Playhouse presents a 'non-gender specific' production of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'

HELP FUND AN 'ENGLISH' THEATER: For almost a decade, Grant and Daniella Crankshaw have dreamed of opening an “English” theater in Israel. This spring, they took the step of launching a crowdfunding project on Headstart to make this dream a reality. “We have done this project so far all on our own, no government or municipal support — just people who believe in us and who see the potential of this project,” said Grant Crankshaw, who met his future wife while they were studying at WITS University in Johannesburg. Having spent years doing community theater in Israel, they decided to open Center Stage in Ra’anana, a “professional performance venue” that will offer theater productions, youth theater, workshops and more. “Also, teaching English to Israeli kids using theater is an innovating approach that is generating a lot of interest,” added Crankshaw. Get more details at or on the Headstart website at The campaign ends June 15.

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM DAY TOGETHER: Jewish International Connections hosted a rooftop kabbalat Shabbat service and gourmet dinner for some 600 people at its second annual Shabbat Together event last Friday, celebrating Jerusalem Day at the city’s First Station. The event included immigrants from 39 countries as well as Israelis from across the country. “It was an opportunity to celebrate, mix, mingle and meet,” Risa Shapiro, the event coordinator, told Haaretz. “The spirit of achdut (unity) was palpable.” Jodi Samuels, a native South African who founded JICIsrael shortly after moving here from New York four years ago, said she found the diversity of the crowd unique. “There were people with no kippot and cellphones, and others with black kippot,” she said. Samuels added: “When we sang kiddush, everyone in the restaurants and coffee shops stopped and joined them. It didn’t matter who the people were.”

SHAKESPEARE WITH A TWIST: J-Town Playhouse, the theater housed in the AACI’s Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem, is presenting Shakespeare with a twist in its new production of “The Tempest.” Director Raphael Poch told Haaretz that the play is“non-gender specific.” Thus, “instead of kings and dukes, you can have queens and duchesses,” he explained. “So, I have Prospera in the lead role, usually played by a man as Prospero.” He added, “In recent years it’s been played by a woman, so I have it played by a woman, Sandy Cash, who is phenomenal.” Other cast members include Michelle Adam, Talya Bem, Sharon Benjamini, Yedidya Fraiman, Shimi Herman, Shlomit Kovalsky, Miriam Metzinger, Shira Potter, Aliza Schoffman-Land, Robin Stamler, Aviva Weisel and Hadar Yadai. The show opened on Thursday, and continues next Monday and Thursday, with three more shows through June 20. For tickets, call the AACI at 02-566-1181.


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