Established in 1944, the Cameri Theatre (today housed in a magnificent state-of-the-art building in central Tel Aviv) is one of Israel’s leading theatres, aiming to offer quality stage productions both at home and abroad. In its earliest years, Yosef Milo (who took the helm of the company) remarked that even he was not quite sure of the style it would offer. It would, however, be something that represented the ‘Sabra’ i.e. the ‘new’ Jew of Israel...a Jew that had a completely different temperament to those born in the diaspora.
The Cameri’s History
The Cameri (“Chamber” in Hebrew) Theatre ‘was founded in the mid-1940s and its birth was announced by Israel's national poet and theatre critic, Leah Goldberg, who wrote: A small cast on a small stage… speaking Hebrew with clear and fluent diction. Immediately, you are embraced by a pleasant atmosphere of good taste and the desire to put on a play – marking what seems to be the foundation of the new Cameri Theatre”. At the time, Yossef Milo – the leader of the company – said: “This is the first time that young actors have set out to establish a new theatre. We have not yet pinpointed our unique style, which will be characteristic of the new Jew; his nature, temper, caliber, and country.”
Milo took an approach to the theatre which differed vastly from that of Habima, another theatre company in Tel Aviv that had been established on more Russian lines and founded in Moscow. In contrast, Cameri took a more western-style approach. He wanted Cameri to be the first company to stage productions that deal with ‘authentic’ Israeli life, drawing on dramas of playwrights such as Hanoch Levin and Shmuel Hasfari. The company found a home on the famous Dizengoff Street and soon the public was flocking to their plays.
In 1970, an agreement was signed between the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo and the Cameri Theatre members, establishing a trust. The idea was that there would be an ongoing arrangement to host repertoire theatre in Tel Aviv, offering the public an opportunity to see plays on subjects that dealt not just with Israel but the larger world.
Cameri would remain in its home on Dizengoff Street until 2002, when it moved to a spacious new, state-of-the-art building, boasting five different halls, on Shaul haMelech Street. Within a short walking distance of Sarona, Yitzchak Rabin Square (Kikar Rabin), the Cinematheque, the area has a lively feel to it and is not far from excellent eateries, bars, and White City architecture.
Productions on Offer
The Cameri offers a wide variety of theatre productions, which can be grouped into four distinct categories:
1. Israeli Dramas - these are original plays written by established Israeli writers as well as young, up-and-coming playwrights. These include “He Walked Through the Fields” (by Moshe Shamir), “Oh, God!” (Anat Gov), and “They - Imagining the Other” (Miriam Kainy)
2. Classical Dramas: These include some of the ‘great classics’ including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, and Electra and Antigona by Sophocles.
3. Contemporary Dramas: Tennesse Williams‘ “The Glass Menagerie”, Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons”, Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and Hans Fallada’s “Alone in Berlin” are among a few of the many modern writers whose productions have been adapted by the Cameri.
4. Musicals: The troupe has performed a number of successful musicals in recent years, including ‘Funny Girl’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘The Producers’, ‘Fiddler on The Roof’, ‘Cabaret’ and’ Bullets Over Broadway.’
Collaboration with Theatres Abroad
Over the years, the Cameri has collaborated with theatres and drama festivals across the globe. These include performances at the London Barbican, the Hanover Expo in Germany, the Shakespeare Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Moscow Theatre of Nations, and the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre in Poland.
The Cameri has also participated in a variety of international festivals, which have included the Deutsches Theatre of Berlin, the National Theatres of Norway and the Czech Republic, the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan, NY, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre in Japan. In 2005, it was the recipient of the prestigious Israeli Prize and, in recent times, has been performing to audiences of around one million per year.
In the worlds of Artistic Director Omri Nitzan: “The principle set forth by the founders’ vision is the same principle that guides us today – to create Israeli theatre that will reflect the complex, ever-changing Israeli experience and create tangent points for the audience to see itself on stage: a meeting point that is rejuvenating, enlightening, sobering and eye-opening. The Cameri must always be a young theatre!”
The Theatre offers subsidies for senior citizens as well as simultaneous translations of its productions into Arabic, English, and Russian. Tel 03 606-0900.