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At the beginning of August, when the Haifa English Theater was supposed to hold auditions for its January show, the last thing committee members were expecting was to find themselves on the front line of a war with Hezbollah. But canceling or delaying the show was not an option, says the theater's board chair, Betsy Lewis Yizraeli. "We felt very strongly the show must go on despite the damage done to everyone in Haifa. We knew it could be a healing experience."

Audiences who arrive for the show, which opens on Thursday, will be offered a glass of wine to toast the new year. "We're offering the citizens of the city a chance to come and laugh ... Everyone who comes will leave with a smile on their face. It'll be that kind of evening. Life's been serious and what people need is laughter."

Yizraeli adds that the theater, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, attracts people from all walks of life and casts include Muslims, Christians and Bahais as well as Jews. "It's a melting pot where people are doing something they love. Love of the theater is the common ground that does away with differences between people," she says.

"Lettice and Lovage" will be performed at Beit Hagefen Auditorium, 33 Zionism Boulevard, Haifa on Thursday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 13 at 8:30 P.M.; on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 P.M.; and on Thursday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 20 at 8:30 P.M. For details, call Hazel at 054-539-8196. ()