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Elliot Norton Reviews; Israeli Plays at Brandeis


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Elliot Norton Reviews
Israeli Plays at Brandeis
Program Number


Series Description

Boston theatre critic Elliot Norton interviews prominent actors, directors and producers on their craft. (Aired from October, 1958 to 1982. Winner of both Peabody and Tony Awards.) Series release date: 1958

Program Description

Elliot Norton interviews director Nola Chilton and actors Scott Richards and Ellen Finholt about two Israeli plays being performing at the Spingold Theatre at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. “Naim” is based on the novel, “The Lover,” by A.B. Yehoshua and adapted by Nola Chilton; “Endgame at Kiryat Gat” is based on a short story of the same name by John Auerbach, and adapted by Nola Chilton and Itzik Weingarten.

“Naim,” which means “pleasant” in Hebrew, is about the meeting of two cultures: an Israeli Arab, Naim (Richards), and an established middle class Jewish family. They meet in Haifa, when Naim starts working in the garage of the Jewish family, of which Finholt plays the mother. Chilton explains that although Arabs live in Israel and are citizens, they usually work “shadow jobs.” This means that while he is in the shadows, he is serving the Jews, which are in the light. The play is about Naim starting to lose this shadow and beginning to gain substance. At the same time, he becomes a replacement for part of what the family has lost. She explains the loss that the Jewish family feels as the result of the westernization of Israel. Israel being created as a place to work has changed with the advent of modern technology and this reality has changed a lot of their original ideals.

Chilton says that the novel on which the play is based is very popular in Israel and this play is still running there after two years. Chilton believes that the Jewish people have positive feelings towards the Arabs in Israel and do not feel hostility. She explains the difference between political sentiment and how people feel in “real life,” saying, “What the human beings feel is not political.” She says that contact between Arabs and Jews is minimal, but when it does exist, it is not hostile. She believes that the Jewish people distinguish between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Arabs, feeling sympathy towards the latter.

Chilton talks about her success in Israel with another play about an Israeli Arab, called “Coexistant.” She finds that the Israel audience can take criticism; “They come, watch, listen, and think.” They are used to conflict and dealing with it, so they both give and take criticism. They do not close themselves off and pretend that conflicts do not exist.

“Endgame in Kiryat Gat” takes place in a actual development town in the Negev Desert, which Chilton refers to as a “little ghetto of North African immigrants.” Chilton explains to Norton that the Moroccan Jews who immigrated to this town came from a culture based on agriculture. As they developed into an industrial town, however, the second generation became quite different from the first.

She goes on to talk about the relevance of this play in regards to the current relationship between the European or Ashkenazi Jews and the influx of Moroccan Jews, which she referred to as “Oriental Jews.” In her opinion, the relationship between the two groups was becoming strained as the “Oriental Jews” were beginning to outnumber the European Jews as 55% of the population. Of this turbulent relationship, she tells Norton, “Where people are, there cannot be equality. Where people are, there’s conflict and there’s a kind of struggle and there is always a confrontation and I think that the healthy survive. And that’s our only hope.”

Chilton explains that the play is about several members of this second generation of Moroccan Jews, who set up a little theater in an effort to bring respect to their family’s name. Scott Richards plays the theater director and Ellen Finholt’s husband. In Chilton’s words, “A crazy hippy American” comes wandering through town and has the idea that he can get the theater to put on Samuel Beckett’s play, Endgame. He believes this modern generation of Moroccan Jews can relate to the “nowhereness, pain, and suffering” in the play. He does his best to change them, break them down, and make them feel these things. In the end, however, they are strong and he is the one that breaks down in sorrow and emptiness. The actors talk about what they learned from doing these plays and Richards notes that the problems in Israel are more complicated than he thought.

Director: Joanna Lu



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Talk Show
Performing Arts
Chicago: “Elliot Norton Reviews; Israeli Plays at Brandeis,” 03/04/1980, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed January 19, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_31FB00CFA9C54101B9B927CCDE30D4E5.
MLA: “Elliot Norton Reviews; Israeli Plays at Brandeis.” 03/04/1980. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. January 19, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_31FB00CFA9C54101B9B927CCDE30D4E5>.
APA: Elliot Norton Reviews; Israeli Plays at Brandeis. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_31FB00CFA9C54101B9B927CCDE30D4E5
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