Habima Theatre, 2011
|Capacity||Rovina Theatre: 930 seats|
Meskin Theatre: 320 seats
Bertonov Theatre: 220 seats
Blanche Rapaport Theatre: 170 seats
The Habima Theatre (Hebrew: תיאטרון הבימה Te'atron HaBima, lit. "The Stage Theatre") is the national theatre of Israel and one of the first Hebrew language theatres. It is located in Habima Square in the center of Tel Aviv.
Habima was founded by Nahum Zemach in Białystok (then in Grodno Governorate, Russia) in 1912. Menahem Gnessin was one of its cofounders and early actors. Because its performances were in Hebrew, invoked the Jewish folk tradition, and dealt with issues of the Jewish people, it met with persecution by the Czarist government. Beginning in 1918, it operated under the auspices of the Moscow Art Theatre, which some consider its true beginning. It encountered difficulties under the Soviet government as well as after the Russian Revolution. Konstantin Stanislavsky arranged for the mainly Jewish Polish actors to be trained by Yevgeny Vakhtangov. The People's Commissar for Nationalities Affairs, Joseph Stalin, also authorized the theatre's creation. However, the Yevsektsiya attempted to use its influence to cut off state funds to Habima, branding it counter-revolutionary.
In 1926, the theatre left the Soviet Union to tour abroad, in countries including Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Their productions met with great success. In 1927, the company split up, with Zemach and some of the actors choosing to stay in the U.S.
The theatre staff visited the city of Lodz, and the pre-war photographer and artist Mendel Grossman, photographed the actors and actresses from the wings of the stage. His life was changed as a result of the visit of the theatre.
Establishment in Palestine
Other members of the theatre took the company to Mandate Palestine in 1928. In the 1928-29 season there, the Habima Players presented two plays, both under the direction of Aleksei Dikiy, from the Moscow Art Theatre. The first production, Ha-otsar (The Treasure), a translation of Sholem Aleichem's Yiddish play Der Oytser, premiered on December 29, 1928. The second production, which premiered on May 23, 1929 in Tel Aviv, was Keter David (David's Crown), an adaptation by Hebrew writer Isaac Lamdan of The Hair of Absalom (Los cabellos de Absalón), by the 17th-century Spanish dramatist Calderón.
In 1930 the company traveled to Berlin, Germany, where it produced Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, directed by Michael Chekhov, and Karl Gutzkow's Uriel Acosta, under the direction of Alexander Granovski.
National Theatre of Israel
Habima has been officially considered the national theatre of Israel since 1958, the year in which it received the Israel Prize for theatre. This was the first year in which the Prize was awarded to an organization. In the 21st century, Habima employs 80 actors, and another 120 staff members work at the complex.
In January 2012, the theatre reopened after four and a half years of renovations. Architect Ram Karmi was commissioned to redesign the historic building. More than NIS 100 million was invested in the makeover, which has added 500 square meters of floor space and three new rehearsal rooms. The building's four auditoriums were completely rebuilt. Each is a different size and color: Rovina is blue and seats 930 people; Meskin is lavender and seats 320; Bertonov (also known as Bamartef) is green and seats 220; and Habima 4 (formerly known as Heineken) is wood panelled and seats 170.
- Solomon Stramer's Yiddish theater troupe in Cluj, Transylvania, Romania in the 1920s was also called Habimah.
- Habimah. Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. 2007. Retrieved 2018-06-18 – via Gale Virtual Reference Library database; and freely available via Jewish Virtual Library.
- "Habima in New York: The Origin and Early History of the Habima", Museum of Family History, accessed 6 Sep 2010
- Shindler, Colin (2012). Israel and the European Left. New York: Continuum. p. 33.
- Ivanov, Vladislav (August 10, 2010). “Habimah”. YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. yivoencyclopedia.org. Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson; revised by Alice Nakhimovsky and Michael C. Steinlauf. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
- Grossman, Mendel; Meron, Peter (1977). With a Camera in the Ghetto.
- Politzer, Heinz (August 1948). "Habimah in New York: A Great Theater Enters a New Period". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- Sullivan, Henry W. (2009). Calderón in the German Lands and the Low Countries: His Reception and Influence, 1654-1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 476, footnote 17. Sullivan notes that Lamdan worked from the German translation by Johann Diederich Gries.
- Rokem, Freddie (1996). "Hebrew Theater from 1888 to 1948", in: Linda Ben-Zvi (Ed.). Theater in Israel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472106074. pp. 51-84; here: p. 72. "The production of David's Crown, produced in Tel Aviv in 1929, during Habima's first visit there, was a very radical adaptation of Calderón de la Barca's Hair of Absalom."
- "Israel Prize recipients in 1958 (in Hebrew)". Israel Prize Official Site. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012.
- Shohat, Zipi (November 21, 2011). "Curtain Rises over Tel Aviv's Newly Renovated Habima Theater". Haaretz. haaretz.com. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- Shohat, Zipi (October 24, 2006). "A New Stage for Habima". Haaretz. haaretz.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- "Habima Architect Tells Critics: 'Kiss My Ass' " (October 11, 2010). Haaretz. haaretz.com. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- Levy, Emanuel. The Habima, 1917-1977: A Study of Cultural Nationalism. Columbia University Press, 1979.
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