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This article traces the reception of Oscar Wilde's play Salomé in Israeli theatre by focusing on the engagement of two artists – writer and translator Pinchas Sadeh and theatre director Ofira Henig – with the play at two different periods. In Salomé, Wilde utilizes his perception of Judaism, as well as the Song of Songs, for the creation of a theatrical space in which spectatorship and ownership are subverted and displaced. At the same time, ironically, the biblical and ‘Jewish’ presence in the play was fundamental for claims of ownership made by some in Hebrew and Israeli culture, asserting that the play somehow belonged to Hebrew culture and the Land of Israel. Despite these claims, the actual reception of Salomé in Israeli theatre proved that the play's ‘belonging’ was far more tenuous. The article examines how the tensions between the seen and the unseen, between owning and disowning and between placement and displacement play out – in almost opposite directions – in Sadeh's ideological reasoning for translating Salomé and in Henig's production of it.
Comparisons between King Lear and the biblical Book of Job have become commonplace in scholarship. This paper traces the impact of the Lear–Job connection on the staging and reception of Shakespeare’s play in Hebrew theatre. Due to this connection, King Lear was put within the orbit of a central cultural endeavour for Zionism: the re-appropriation of the Hebrew Bible for the formation of a new national identity. In the mid-twentieth century, the play appealed to directors who searched for Hebrew ‘biblical’ theatre, and a web of intertextual allusions in the press tied Shakespeare’s tragedy to the Book of Job and to rabbinic interpretations of it. However, the equivocal position held by Job within the Zionist imagination undermined the place of King Lear as well. Ultimately, the two were intertwined in the politics of their reception in Hebrew theatre. Yair Lipshitz is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theatre Arts in Tel Aviv University. In his research, he explores the various intersections between theatre, performance, and Jewish religious traditions. He is the author of two books in Hebrew: The Holy Tongue, Comedy’s Version (Bar Ilan University Press, 2010) and Embodied Tradition: Theatrical Performances of Jewish Texts (forthcoming).
Precisely because of its radical instability as a theatrical signifier, playwrights have seized on the prop as a tool for destabilizing the conventional symbolism previously embodied by the now ambiguous object. Although they cannot legislate the prop's impact, playwrights can seek to orchestrate the prop's movement through concrete stage space and linear stage time. They can also shape the audience's reception of the prop through dialogue and stage directions. . . . This is especially the case during periods of semiotic crisis, when the meaning of the object the prop represents is (quite literally) up for grabs.