In 1991, during the first Gulf War, a group of Russian actors under the leadership of Yevgeny Arye, a prominent stage director from Moscow, immigrated to Israel and in a bold move, founded a theatre symbolically named Gesher: 'a bridge' in Hebrew. It all started like a scene from the theatre of the absurd. A group of actors crowded in a small cellar in Tel-Aviv, rehearsing Hebrew texts transcribed into Cyrillic alphabet, running in their costumes and gas-masks to the nearest shelter each time the sirens started wailing to warn of an Iraqi missile attack. Yet against all odds, from its first production of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, (April 1991), Gesher was hailed as “The Russian Miracle of the Israeli Theatre” (D'var Hashavua, August 1991). And indeed it was a miracle. What started as an impossible dream has become a huge artistic success story. Gesher is the only theatre of immigrants in the world that has thrived for so long. It is probably the only theatre where rehearsals are conducted simultaneously in three languages and where the same actors perform alternately in Hebrew and Russian.
Over the years Gesher theatre has lived up to its symbolic name and has become a bridge between Russian and Israeli cultures. The theatre has incorporated many Israeli actors into its ranks, its productions are currently mostly in Hebrew, it has moved into a permanent home in Jaffa; it has staged over 60 productions, represented Israel in more than 17 international festivals, won numerous awards and was praised by The Times as “one of the greatest and most important troupes in the world”.
Gesher has won a place of prominence among Israeli theatres and a world-wide success. As Le Figaro wrote in July 1993, Gesher is “an ensemble whose reputation exceeds the borders of Israel, and rightly so”.
This unprecedented success should be attributed first and foremost to the talented and dedicated actors, and the relentless energy and artistic vision of YevgenyArye, Gesher’s founder and Artistic Director, who has created a unique theatrical language which combines the principles of traditional Russian theatre with an original and innovative approach.
“This is theatre at its best. Rarely do we see here such a large company, where most of the actors are excellent… there are not many theatres of such quality and high standards in the world today” Hadashot, January 1993.
Last but not least – credit is due to the support of the City of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa and its mayor, the Israeli Ministry of Culture and to the dedicated work of "The Friends of Gesher Theatre Organization" under its Chairman Mr. Israel Makov and the Director Mrs.Ruthy Heilpern.
In Recognition for its outstanding achievements Gesher Theater was awarded in 1995 The Chairman of the Knesset (The Israeli Parliament) Award for "enriching the Israeli social life by contribution and creation in the cultural field"; in 1996 -The Igal Allon Award was bestowed on Gesher for best achievement in culture; in May 2006 – a special honorary title by the Bar-Ilan University -the first ever awarded to an institution - was bestowed on Gesher; and in 2007- the Israel Lions Award, and the Ruppin Academic Center Honorary Award.
After the premiere of City – Odessa Stories, Ma'ariv newspaper wrote: “Such theatre cannot be seen every day, not only in Israel. The audience emerges with a song in its heart, saying to itself: “how beautiful”. Let's hope that our song will reverberate in the audience's heart for many years to come.
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