YZRAELY, YOSSI (1938– ), theater director and poet, professor in the theater department of Tel Aviv University. Yzraely was born in Jerusalem. After obtaining his diploma from the London Academy of Dramatic Art, Yzraely continued his B.A. studies at Bristol University, and completed his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He wrote his doctoral thesis on Vakhtangov's staging of The Dybbuk. Yzraely taught and directed from 1969. Yzraely served twice as artistic director: at the Habimah National Theater, from 1975 to 1977, and at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem, from 1984 to 1987. In both cases his artistic direction was impressive, albeit controversial. He was a full professor in the Department of Theater Arts at Tel Aviv University, and between 1982 and 1989 he was visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Between 2001 and 2005 he published five books of poetry.
Yzraely's first professional directing in Israel was Shlonski's Uẓ-Li Guẓ-Li at the Cameri Theater in 1965, which was a great success; the critics hailed the birth of a new theater director. This success was repeated in the productions that followed: Strindberg's The Creditors (Zavit Theater, 1966), Mrozek's Striptease (Zavit Theater, 1967), Beckett's Waiting for Godot (Habimah Theater, 1969), A.B. Yehoshua's Night in May (Bimot Theater, 1969), and Seneca's Medea. In all of these performances Yzraeli's directing method was based on a personal reading of the text and on the creation on stage of a powerful visual metaphor that brought to life his interpretation of the text with the aid of the actors' movements and gestures, the stage design, the music, and the lighting.
In 1972 Yzraely directed Dan Almagor's adaptation of ḥasidic tales Ish Ḥasid Hayah (Only Fools Are Sad, Bimot Theater, 1972). The performance enjoyed great success and led to a series of very personal interpretations of Jewish material on the stage. Thus, Yzraely adapted Agnon's novels for the theater while keeping the epic components of the narrative and using theatrical images to enhance the dramatic situations; Hakhnasat Kallah (Bridal Canopy, Habimah National Theater, 1972), Sippur Pashut (A Simple Tale, Habimah National Theater, 1979), Temol Shilshom (Yesterdays, Habimah National Theater, 1982), and Tehillah (Khan Theater, 1984) were very powerful performances in which Yzraely established an idiosyncratic theatrical language. He also adapted for the stage Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav's tales The Seven Beggars (Khan Theater, 1979), and a theatrical collage, Nothing Is More Whole than a Broken Heart, based on Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav's dreams, prayers, and tales (State Theater, Heidelberg, Germany, 1981, and Berlin Festival, 1982).
Yzraely is also internationally known for his mise en scene of classical drama: Sophocles' Antigone (Kresge Theater, Pittsburgh, 1990), Oedipus (Haifa Municipal Theater, 1992), Shakespeare's King Lear (Shakespeare in the Park Festival, Delaware Park, Buffalo, New York, 1983), Measure for Measure (Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, Pittsburgh, 1985), Anthony and Cleopatra (Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, Pittsburgh, 1989), Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare in the Park Festival, Delaware Park, Buffalo, New York, 1993), and Corneille's The Illusion (an adaptation of L'Illusion Comique, Khan Theater, Jerusalem, 2002). Yzraely is a specialist in Ibsen's drama. His performances of Peer Gynt (Habimah National Theater, 1971), The Enemy of the People (Habimah National Theater, 1976), Little Eyolf (Khan Theater, Jerusalem, 1987), and The Wild Duck (Beer Sheva Municipal Theater, 1987) sought the points of connection between realism and symbolism. In 1987, Yzraely was given the Ibsen Medal by the mayor of Skien, Norway, for his distinguished presentations of Ibsen's plays.
Yzraely's international directing career started at the same time as his Israeli career. From 1966 he directed in Manchester, London, Heidelberg, Berlin, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New York. He received important awards and prizes for his performances: the award (twice) for best original production of the year from the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture (for Utz-Li Gutz-Li and Ish Ḥasid Hayah) and the David's Harp Award (for Ish Ḥasid Hayah and for A Simple Tale). In 1982 he was chosen by the Pittsburgh press as best director of the year for his staging of Ghost Sonata, and in 1986 he was chosen as best director of the year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his staging of Measure for Measure.
G. Kaynar, Interview with Y.Y., in: Teatron 02 (June 2002), 64–73; idem, "Translation as Realization of Scripted Actions and Staging Metaphor: Y. Yzraely's Reading of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea," in: Assaph, 16 (2000), 44–64.
[Nurit Yaari (2nd ed.)]