Usually, one of the busiest times for theater is the weekend. Shows are performed Friday evening and Saturday. However, in the Jerusalem English theater community we never perform Friday evening or Saturday day. Why is this? Because many of our actors, directors, and producers are Jewish and keep Shabbat, the day of rest. We also have Muslims and Christians in our shows. Muslims hold Friday as their day of rest and many Christians hold their day of rest on Sunday. Almost all our shows are done Sunday evening through Thursday evening with the occasional show on Saturday night. Even during the Jewish holidays we do not perform. Our productions have Jews, Christians, Muslims, Secular, Orthodox, people who believe in religion and people who don’t believe in religion joining together on stage. We all perform together, telling stories.
This break, while not only allowing for all of the actors to perform without worrying about respecting their day of rest on the weekend, has created a special time for the community. Starcatcher, which opens “In The Heights” tonight and that has performances Saturday night, next Thursday and Saturday night with an added performance on Wednesday the 6th of March, started a special tradition. They have a “Cast Shabbat” where everyone gets together Friday night and Saturday day for festive Shabbat meals and gets to spend time together outside of the context of rehearsal and the show. It does not matter if you are religious or secular, even though all food is made to accommodate everyone. Some other companies or individuals have taken this upon themselves as well with a recent Cast Shabbat with the “West Side Story” cast of Beit Hillel and a Cast Shabbat with the “Hanna Senesh” cast of J-town Playhouse. Even when people are no longer in a show together, they still sometimes get together for Shabbat meals.
Recently a professional tour of Soul Doctor came to Jerusalem and they also did not perform on Shabbat. Special Shabbat meals were planned for the cast and it was an amazing experience for all.
Our community is special and we have created special experiences where people from all different backgrounds meet together. These Shabbat gatherings have created wonderful moments for all and help keep our community thriving. No matter what religion you keep or what you believe in, these meals and the times of rest together have been something very meaningful to our community.