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The Journey of the Year

Jerusalem, July 1982.
Department of Theatre in The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

The experience of existence in relation to the circle [calendar?] of the Jewish Year – a theatrical experiment according to the Jewish Sources, with the participation of the audience.

Research, dramatization: the students of the Department of the History of Theatre, The Hebrew University.
Editing and Directing: Michal Govrin.
Design: Frieda Klapholtz
Musical arrangements: Andre Hajdu
Musical direction and flute – Akiva Ben-Horin;
violin – Tania Susskind;
guitar – Roger Ychai.
Costume making: Vered Slonimky
Participating: Betti Edry, Hava Goren, Carmela Hotzen, Talli Hefetz, Ziva Haimson, Liora Hanoch, Shimon Yahav, Zimrat Yardeni, Ronit Lichtman, Diana Lam, Smadar Misrahi, Liora Malka, Isaac Slomiansky, Erik Schinazi, Yolanda Perlmutter, Ilan Tsipora, Offer Rotem, Ofra Shahor, Shukrun Eliyahu (Shuky), Shlomit Steinberg.

Visitor Actors: Victor Attar, Yossi Kenan – The Jerusalem Khan Theatre.

About the play
The Journey of the Year is an endeavor to convey the experience of living the Jewish calendar, through the medium of theater. The plot and dramatic structure of the production map out the cycle of the year, its seasons and holidays. In this show, the audience is not a passive observer, but rather a participant in the journey, moving with the actors through the course of the year, as it is marked out by the “holiday stations”.
It is based on elements drawn from the Jewish sources, as interpreted by the students of the Hebrew University’s Department of Theater in their academic and creative studies, with the assistance of the artists who took part in the project. The experiment is dedicated both to casting a new light on the Jewish year and festivals, and to developing ways of articulating them through performance. The Journey of the Year opens up the results of a private workshop to the public at large.



The Journey of the Year was created for the First International Congress of Jewish Theater, and was produced with the support of the festival and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Synopsis
Act I: Autumn
(Rosh Hashana – The New Year, Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement, Sukkoth – Feast of Tabernacles)

This act sees man through the exertion of renewal: his confrontation with judgment and efforts to evade it, his fears of the future and hopes for it – from the Slichot (penitential prayers) to the Hosha’na Rabbah (the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles); from the individual’s solitude to the uniting of society and its laws on Simhat Torah (The Rejoicing of the Law).

Act II: Winter (the new moon, Hanukkah – the Feast of Lights, the 15th of Sh’vat – Arbor Day, Purim – the Carnival Festival ).
This is the time of conception, pregnancy and birth. During this season, a fundamental pattern recurs: that of emerging from latency to blossoming, from darkness to light, and from distress to salvation, concluding at the redeeming carnival of Purim in “Ad d’lo yada” (drunk ‘until he could not discern’)

Act III: Spring (Passover, 33rd day of the Omer, Shavuoth – Feast of Weeks) Walking through the forty-nine days of the Counting of the Omer, this act performs the drama of the Exodus, through to the spiritual culmination of the betrothal that takes place on Mount Sinai.

Act IV: Summer (Ninth of Av – day of fasting and mourning in memory of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, Fifteenth of Av – the Festival of Love) The death of nature occurs simultaneously with the destruction of the temples and the onset of grief. The Phoenix, however, rises from its ashes in the festival of vineyards and marriage. With it we see the revival of nature, while the readings and penitential prayers bring our cyclical journey round towards the beginning of the new year.

[Extracts from the programme of The Journey of the Year]  


 “ The Journey of the year, written and directed by a Hebrew University theater professor, Michal Govrin, also used traditional sources and ritual theater in an unconventional and highly effective way. “Unlike other ritual traditions”, Miss Govrin said, “Jewish worship never underwent the process of theatricalization… owing to its prohibition in the ten commandments… A type of sacred theater did, however manifest itself in Jewish worship: The use of rhythmic words, and rhythmic movement, special speech, story telling, costuming, accessories and ritual objects (all within a fixed time and space) and a participating audience.” This tradition, she feels, presents a “possibility to examine the theatrical aspects of Jewish ritual with a view to a new perspective for understanding ritual-theatrical expression within the Jewish ceremony”. “The Journey of the Year” expresses not only Jewish ritual, but also the experience among Jews of the cycle of the Jewish year, commencing with Rosh Hashana (the New Year) until its end at Tisha B’Av (the mourning of the destruction of the temple) and the coming of the New Year once again. The piece is performed outdoors, with the audience actually following the actors through “the stations of the holidays and festivals”, each of which is depicted through traditional Jewish customs. Some holidays like Purim evoke a carnival scene, with food offered to the spectators. Passover is dramatized by family preparations for the great feast the Seder, and by enacting the story of Moses on Mount Sinai on a high hilltop surrounded by small burning fires.

In using traditional sources, Miss Govrin involved the audience directly. Children were especially responsive. Recognizing the holidays as part of their life experience, some even joined the cast to read from the Holy Scriptures. As in family celebrations during the holidays, one could feel the strong bond resulting from a common religious ethos and historical past”.

(Extract from: Margaret Croyden, “Tel Aviv Festival Explores Today’s Jewish Theater”, New York Times, 22.8.1982)

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