in the garden

 

Feb 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

It was a first-night gala. Jerusalem's Gerard Behar Auditorium was packed. But this was a performance with a difference. Under the auspices of Shekel, an association set up to help people with developmental problems, a performance of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver was being given. All the participants were children and young adults with special needs. Produced in conjunction with the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio in Jerusalem, this was Oliver with a twist.

The proceedings began fairly formally. A large number of people had been involved in the enterprise, both voluntarily and professionally, and all had to be thanked by the (voluntary) compere. Some of them were also given the opportunity to speak. In addition, several ministers and public figures were in the audience and some of these also felt impelled to address the audience.

Finally, the show began. The actors, backed up by a small choir, moved about the stage in period costume, recited their lines more or less on cue, and even ad-libbed occasionally. At times the prompter could be heard while at others the actors prompted one another, but everyone entered into the spirit of the somewhat convoluted plot and enjoyed themselves in the process. The principal actors were all equipped with head microphones so that they could be clearly heard. The concept and execution were admirable, and everything added up to produce a unique event.

The British ambassador, addressing the audience afterwards, was clearly moved. Everyone applauded loudly when he remarked what an enjoyable experience the evening had been for him. It had given him immense pleasure, he said, to get away from the problems of politics and affairs of state and see the real Israel coping with the normal problems of everyday life. Everyone agreed that it had been inspiring to see what the youngsters had been able to achieve.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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