The Top Ten

The Most Influential People in Israeli Theater

1. Ruth Asrasai, 31, actress

2. Itay Tiran, 33, actor and director

Itay Tiran created an almost bipolar portrait of kingship in his two lead roles in the Cameri Theater's productions of Shakespeare's "Richard II" and "Richard III." At the same time, he continued to appear as the amusing moderator in "Cabaret" and the tormented prince in "Hamlet." It's been a long time since there was such a  multitalented actor in Israeli theater (some say there has never been), possessed of a spark of genius. Tiran has also long since been more than an actor. His acclaimed direction of Buchner's "Woyzeck" was reinforced by his work this year as the director of "Little Man, What Now?" based on the Hans Fallada novel, also at the Cameri. Any director, playwright or artistic director who wants to offer him a lead role will have to meet a very high standard indeed.

3. Shir Goldberg, 36, director, and Shahar Pinkas, 35, playwright and dramaturge

Shir Goldberg and Shahar Pinkas are the latest fascinating duo in Israeli theater, which seems to produce a preeminent professional pair every few years (like Omri Nitzan and Noam Semel, Edna Mazya and the late Anat Gov). Even though they have only recently begun working in repertory theater, they have already left an imprint, in the form of "Tehila," based on an Agnon story, at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem, and "Adam lo met stam," Pinkas' adaptation of a story by Dvora Baron, at the Cameri. Their new production, "The Overcoat," based on the Gogol story, recently opened at the Khan. The two are crafting a new stage language, bubbling with ideas, and are not afraid to follow their singular vision.

4. Ira Avneri, 36, director

Ira Avneri presents a high bar of impressive achievements, as the dramaturge for the new Cameri production of "Macbeth" and the director of two classic plays in fringe theater: Schiller's "Mary Stewart" and Chekhov's "The Seagull," both at Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv. Avneri's adaptations emphasize the work's design and are based in part on images of light. Not only has he shown that he is not afraid to tackle the classics, he also stands out as an artist with a style of his own. His achievements mark him as a fascinating and promising creative artist.

5. Dori Parnas, 50, translator and musician

No translator is busier than Dori Parnas. The recipient of the Israel Theater Prize in 2012 for his translation of Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors," he also translated "Macbeth" for the new Cameri production. He is second to none in his broad education and his deep understanding of the Bard. At the same time, he has written music for many productions. In "Little Man, What Now?" he created the framework of a musical, adding another layer to the work's interpretation. For the past decade he has been busy with a project of his own, "Shakespeare & Co." in which he has translated most of the plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries and uploaded them to the Internet.

6. Noam Semel (right), 67, director general of the Cameri Theater, and Omri
Nitzan, 63, the Cameri's artistic director

In an era of commercialization of repertory theater, the Cameri's Shakespeare project once more places the joint ongoing work of Semel and Nitzan at the center of the Israeli theater scene. The Cameri's two "King Richard" productions, directed by Arthur Kogan, are not easy, to say the least. Together with "Macbeth," the Cameri has mounted three plays by Shakespeare in one year. This was clearly a gamble. Semel and Nitzan took the risk, and the rest is history.

7. Miki Gurevich, 61, artistic director of the Khan Theater

Miki Gurevich has turned Jerusalem's Khan Theater into a high-quality jewel. The impressive group of actors he has gathered around him work as in an experimental laboratory. As a director, he is profound, as a playwright he is subversive and experimental, and as an artistic director his choices reflect a desire to go against the current that is now dominant in Israeli theater. This year he restored political theater to center stage after a long absence from the repertory theater, in the form of Motti Lerner's "The Hastening of the End," directed by Ron Ninio, based on the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron. Independent artists turn to Gurevich, who is considered a symbol of quality and a gatekeeper in the face of commercialization of the theater.

8. Shmulik Yifrah (right), 51, and Rafi Niv, 48, artistic directors, Be'er Sheva
Theater

Shmulik Yifrah, the director general of the Be'er Sheva Theater, who shares the title of artistic director with Rafi Niv, has turned the southern theater into a high-quality institution. Examples are its productions of Ibsen's "Nora," directed by Kfir Azulay, and "Iphigenia," directed by Gadi Roll. Yifrah and Niv, who both hail from Israel's south, have put together a group of actors who live in Be'er Sheva, cultivated an impressive array of directors and other artists, and increased the number of subscribers to the theater. In 2012, its production of the comedy "Play it Again, Sam," by Woody Allen, won the Israel Theater Prize. The decision to mount a new production of Motti Lerner's 1986 play "Pangs of the Messiah," is another step by Yifrah and Niv toward the realization of their uncompromising artistic vision.

9. Nava Zuckerman, 64, founder and director of Tmuna Theater 

Nava Zuckerman is the Big Mama of fringe theater in Israel. Tmuna mounts dozens of productions, albeit not of uniform quality, but all distinctive and intriguing. Many of the artists who were active in Tmuna made their way into repertory theater. And it's a two-way street: quite a few actors and creative artists from repertory theater are eager to take interesting parts that are available in fringe.

10. Ticket sales managers in the repertory theaters

In a situation in which Israeli theater companies receive a pittance from the state and have to maneuver on their own against cheap, easily available entertainment such as television, the ticket sales managers Igal Hartal at Habima, Micha  Weissemberger at Beit Lessin, Dafna Harari and her associates at the Cameri are responsible for the survival of the big repertory theaters. They are like magicians performing tricks at a great height.

Gali Eytan
Gerard Allon