The Schmooze

Can Despotism Be Good for Art?

In 1991,Yevgeny Arye, a prominent Moscow stage director as well as a member of the Russian Academy, decided to emigrate to Israel. When they heard his plans, about a dozen of his Jewish students decided to accompany him.

They called themselves “Gesher” — Hebrew for “bridge” — and arrived in the midst of the Gulf War. Now the Gesher Theatre is on the road again. To help celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, the company is coming to New York to perform “Enemies: A Love Story,” a theatrical adaptation of the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. It will performed June 6 to 9 at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

The group’s director general, Lena Kreindlin, spoke by telephone from Jaffa with The Arty Semite about the problems of adjusting (and rehearsing with gas masks on), Jewish life in Russia, and how a little despotism may be a good thing for art.

Curt Schleier: It must have been difficult making the transition from Russia to Israel.

Lena Kreindlin: Everything was a problem. First of all, we didn’t speak the language of this country. Second, we didn’t know anybody. Third, we didn’t have a house or anything. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have friends. And we didn’t have a vision for our lives. But we were stubborn and two weeks after we came we put on gas masks (when the air raid siren sounded) and continued rehearsals of our first show, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [Are Dead]” by Tom Stoppard.

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Can Despotism Be Good for Art?

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