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Shakespeare returns to Jerusalem park

CM 02/08/2021 2

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After a year’s sabbatical brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Theater in the Rough’s 10th annual Shakespeare performance will return to Bloomfield Park in Jerusalem on August 11. 

This year’s production is Henry IV, a history full of complex family dynamics and rebellion. Theater in the Rough is a true family affair with a multitude of dynamics, led by mother-son duo, Beth Steinberg and Natan Skop and including other family members in key acting and production roles. 
Steinberg has always had a passion for theater and Shakespeare. Before she made aliyah from New York, she was inspired to put her own spin on Shakespeare productions that she saw from the New York Classical Theater in grassroots performances in Central Park. 
Audience members, including Steinberg’s children, would follow the actors as the play changed scenes in different locations throughout the park. The cast members would remain in character as the scenes relocated, adding life and passion to a classic Shakespeare play. 

It was Steinberg’s eldest son, Natan, who gave her the final push to bring that concept to Jerusalem. 
“It was 2010 and he said to me, can you do some Shakespeare?” recalls Steinberg, co-founder and co-director of Shutaf Inclusion Programs in Jerusalem.
“He’s the reason why I got into this. I had done this kind of stuff at camp but I hadn’t thought about the directing itch for a long time.” 
That year saw Theater in the Rough’s first outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, with Natan as producer.
“We just put some posts up on Facebook. And I was like, oh, you know, maybe 100 people will come, 50 people will come but 200 people came. And then, people came again the next night,” Steinberg said. 
Shortly afterward, audience members were asking Steinberg what the next year’s production would be. 
Flash forward 11 years, and Theater in the Rough has put on 10 unique shows that are free to the public and adapted to challenges brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic. It has also remained a family operation. 
Steinberg is the artistic director of the production and therefore has the task of bringing together all aspects of the play into one cohesive performance. Natan, who is also a theater student, is the show’s producer and will play the young, headstrong prince in Henry IV. 
And who is best fit to play the prince’s low life sidekick, Falstaff, you ask? 
None other than Natan’s father, and Beth’s husband Ira Skop, who has played the main role in most of Theater in the Rough’s productions.
The familial connections don’t stop there.
When asked about how this family dynamic affected their work and personal lives, Natan remarked, “It’s taken us a while to mature into it. Initially I would make a big thing about calling her ‘Beth’ if we were in any official capacity,” Natan said, “and we have different last names so it was kind of like, oh no one knows.”
However, now the mother-son duo see their working relationship as playing to their advantage. 
“I grew up and realized that it’s totally normal – family relationships in theater and the arts in general as well as business,” Natan said, “On the one hand it means that she [Steinberg] can direct me and we can have conversations that are a little more honest, or more straightforward than other people, and on the other hand it means that we have more baggage.” 
THIS YEAR’S performance has been in the works for longer than anticipated as growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic forced the show to be postponed last summer. 
Now after some recasting, the play will finally debut to an anticipated large audience. 
“I think people are thrilled to have theater come back,” Steinberg said, “it means that something normal is going to happen in Jerusalem this summer.” 
Steinberg also recognizes that since the performance is occurring outdoors it will help ease some anxieties associated with the pandemic. 
The star of this year’s show, Miriam Metzinger, who plays Henry IV is a Theater in the Rough veteran and is looking forward to the personal touch that she will be able to place on her role. 
“I get to play a parent when I am a parent to three sons,” Metzinger said, “and while I am not a King, I understand the struggle of having to deal with family problems and responsibilities while keeping up appearances. It’s not very easy.” 
Steinberg is looking forward to audience members experiencing these contemporarily relevant story lines and relationships that are present in such a classic play. 
Henry IV is now in its final stages of preparation, with cast members rehearsing in the park four times per week. 
Entry to the play at Bloomfield, the park that skirts the King David Hotel and Yemin Moshe’s windmill, is free with a NIS 40 suggested donation. More information is located on Theater in the Rough’s website: theaterintherough.co.il

Source: Jerusalem Post

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