Theater seats
Will the choices for the International Exposure for Theater and for IsraDrama 2013 help to fill the seats? Photo by David Bachar
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A few weeks ago, I was settling down to a fancy pre-performance dinner with a friend – we had just placed our orders and the cocktails had just arrived – when my phone beeped to inform me that the show would begin in 10 minutes.

“What?!” I shrieked. “That’s impossible. It’s Friday night – dance shows on Friday nights always start at 10 P.M.!”

That’s generally the case for dance performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Neve Tzedek, Israel’s premiere dance center. Weekday performances there tend to begin at 9 P.M. while matinee performances on Friday and Saturday begin at 2 P.M. – except for some kiddie shows that start at 11:30 A.M. But this isn’t the case at Teatron Tmuna or the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, which often start their dance shows at 8 P.M.

The Israeli Opera also begins at 8 P.M. but if you opt for a matinee, then be sure to show up at 1 P.M. If you’re catching a show at the Jerusalem Theater, your start time is 8:30 P.M…. unless it’s a Thursday, and then you have an extra half hour to play with. A quick glance at the calendar for Habima, the national theater, indicates that on any a given night there might be four shows in different theaters, each starting at a different hour from 5 P.M. to 9 P.M. Confused yet?

Basically, the rule is: There is no rule.

Depending on theater, genre, and day of the week (and maybe if the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars…) your theater start time can vary, so pay close attention when booking tickets and make your pre- and post-performance plans accordingly.

And forget the stereotypes about Israelis always being late – these are professional institutions and shows do start on time, whether you’re in your seat or not. You may have splurged for center orchestra tickets but an usher will have no problem ushering you right into the balcony after the performance begins or holding you in the lobby until an appropriate pause.

Don't be shocked, either, if you arrive late and find other opportunistic theater-lovers have grabbed your seats. When the curtain goes up and those in the nosebleed section see empty chairs closer to the stage, they often don't hesitate to scoot on down and get closer to the action.

Back to my now-ruined fancy meal: A bit of Internet scrambling later, we discovered that the show had in fact made an exception and decided to start at 9 P.M. I even entered it correctly in my calendar but by this point had come to trust the usual start times as if they were set in stone. They never are. Always confirm start times and theater locations in advance. Otherwise the tickets will burn a hole in your pocket, as they did mine, and you’ll be left to console yourself with another round of cocktails.