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1970 Habimah
11.3.1970/E. Weishoff/p281/15s 5t/bulletin 213/leaflet 113/

HABIMAH JUBILEE

The "Habimah" Theater was founded in Moscow in 1918, by a group of young Jews, lovers of the Hebrew language, who had resolved to establish a professional, Hebrew-speaking, artistic theater company. Some of its members, like Hannah Rovina, Nahum Zemach, Menahem Gnessin and Baruch Chemerinski, were active in Hebrew education while other members, like Yehoshua Bertonov, David Vardi, Zvi Friedland, Tamar Robins and Fania Lovitz, had previously been members of amateur theater groups.

Led and inspired by Nahum Zemach, the "Habimah" pioneers were set on realizing their vision, preparing themselves for their stage mission.

Animated by their enthusiasm and dedication, Konstantin Stanislavski, the Russian stage genius and director of the "Artistic Theater" and the studios affiliated to it, demonstrated his keen interest by appointing Yevghenie Vachtangov, his gifted pupil, to be their guide and teacher. Their maiden play, The First Ball, was originally performed in 1918, leaving a deep impression on the Moscow cultural elite. The troupe became an affiliated studio to the "Artistic Theater."

Following The First Ball, "Habimah" started with the rehearsals for The Dybbuk by S. Anski, translated into Hebrew by H. N. Bialik, and directed by Vachtangov. On that occasion the troupe was joined by such actors as Aaron Meskin, Hanna'le Hendler, Zvi Ben Haim, Ina Govinska, Abraham Baratz and others.

Due to Vachtangov's illness, rehearsals for The Dybbuk had to be put off for some time and V. Mezdilov was called upon to direct The Eternal Jew, its first performance taking place in 1919.

Meanwhile Vachtangov had recovered and the troupe resumed its rehearsals for The Dybbuk. The first presentation took place in 1923 and was most enthusiastically praised both by the public and the theater reviewers.

After Vachtangov's death, other Russian directors, who had been Stanislavski's pupils, continued to guide "Habimah," basing their work in that initial phase mainly on their teacher's method, namely on the ensemble, on "teamwork."

The "Habimah" initiators organised their company as a collective body, the first paragraph of the article of association reading: "The association establishes itself to continue in Eretz Israel the work of Habimah founded in Moscow." Indeed, in consideration of the increasing pressure to close down the extraordinary theatre which performed in a "counter-revolutionary language" such as Hebrew, the founders of "Habimah" decided in 1926 to leave Russia for Eretz Israel. On its way the company toured many European countries as well as the United States. Wherever the troupe appeared it was given an enthusiastic welcome not only by Jews but also by outstanding personalities in the world of the Theatre and other spheres. The international press, too, was full of praise for the spirit "Habimah" had brought to the western stage.

In 1928 "Habimah" arrived in Eretz Israel, its original destination. A year later the company went abroad again for some time, taking this opportunity to enlarge its repertoire with new plays produced by well-known directors.

The impact of the encounter with the western theater soon revealed itself in the style of staging plays as well as in the way of the troupe's acting. In the years 1931-1947, in which "Habimah" almost invariably depended on directors from its own ranks, it could boast of many a notable success. During that period it was mainly inspired by two of its members, Baruch Chemerinski and Zvi Friedland, who left their mark on the company for many years. In the course of time the troupe presented additional directors from its own ranks, such as Shimon Finkel, Abraham Ninio, Israel Becker and Shraga Friedman.

As from 1947 "Habimah" has renewed its cooperation with world-famous stage directors. Israeli directors, other than "Habimah" members, too, were able to find there a sphere of action. Beside more than 250 plays, selected from the worldwide classical and modern repertoire, which have been staged by "Habimah" so far, the company has also been active in producing some forty original Hebrew plays, all written by Israeli playwrights.

Since its arrival in the country, "Habimah" had been faced with the problem of finding a permanent home. The cornerstone for the building was laid in 1935 and ten years later, in 1945, it was festively inaugurated.

Even after having moved into its permanent home, the company has never ceased to tour every part of the country, performing in towns and villages, in Kibbutzim and visiting Army camps as well.

Occasionally "Habimah" goes abroad to participate in international festivals and on organized tours of its own.

On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Theater's foundation, the Minister of Education and Culture, on behalf of the Government of Israel, granted "Habimah" the title of "National Theatre" in honor of the substantial contribution the troupe made to the revival of the Hebrew language and culture.

In the course of years it had been felt that it would be necessary to make changes in the organizational and administrative structure of the Theater. In 1969 the decision was reached to abandon the structure of the collective body and to transfer the management of the Theater to a board of trustees, appointed by the Minister of Education and Culture, which would guide its operation as a national Theater.

The stamp depicts a scene from The Dybbuk. On the tab is the inscription: "50th Anniversary of Habimah National Theatre."



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  Performing Arts\Theater