Ed Stoppard, Richard Topol and Yuval Boim Star In Socially-Distanced Recording Of A WALK WITH MR. HEIFETZ
Spending lockdown in Israel, playwright James Inverne decided to put together an audio recording of his 2018 play A Walk With Mr Heifetz and stream it online for free, but soliciting donations for two Israeli charities - the AICF (America Israel Cultural Foundation) and Meir Panim.
He reached out to artists who had previously had an association with the play, and Yuval Boim, Ed Stoppard, Richard Topol and Mariella Haubs quickly agreed. Boim and Haubs had created their roles in the Primary Stages world premiere production, at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. Stoppard had played Jascha Heifetz at a London festival reading, and Topol had taken part in a workshop during the play's development period.
With much of the world in lockdown due to COVD-19, the recording was made under socially-distanced conditions, using Zoom and other technologies. Inverne produced the recording from Israel, Boim, Topol and Haubs were in different locations in the US, Stoppard was in London - where he had been starring in the West End production of Tom Stoppard's play Leopolstadt when theatres were closed - and audio technician Timothy Burton was in Wales.
"It was fascinating and a little stressful trying to get the sound acceptable across four countries," says Inverne, "We had to come back and redo the whole of Act One at one point, because our big technological breakthrough came just as we recorded Act Two a week later, but Yuval and Ed were great about repeating the session and their performances - everyone's performances - are wonderful."
Asked why he embarked on the project, and why now, Inverne replied, "I think a lot of people are coming up with very creative ways to be helpful during this horrible situation. This play is at least partly about the role of art in society, and I felt that very literally art could perhaps be helpful at this point - if people listen to the play and are moved to donate to either or both of our incredibly worthy nominated charities." The AICF, which incorporates a fund named for Moshe Sharett, who appears as a major character (played by Richard Topol) in the play, helps young Israeli artists when they need support; Meir Panim brings nutritious meals to Israel's poor with a special concentration on youth and Holocaust survivors. Both, Inverne felt, would have been approved of by the play's historical characters.
Once embarked on the project, he adds, other parallels became obvious. "One of the actors pointed out what now seems deeply obvious to me but hadn't struck me until that moment, that the entire second act deals with a character who has suddenly been plunged into isolation, and the question of whether art can help him through that - it's a question many of us who work in the arts are asking ourselves. And I think it has been clear that art in all of its forms has played an absolutely vital role in preserving the sanity and uplifting the spirits of millions of people who have been largely confined to their homes."
A Walk With Mr Heifetz is set in pre-Israel Palestine in 1926, when a concert given in a stone quarry by celebrated violinist Jascha Heifetz drew a vast crowd - but no one witnessed the legendary conversation he had afterwards with a charismatic young composer and kibbutz pioneer named Yehuda Sharett. On Yehuda Sharett's journey to become a founding father of Israeli culture, two remarkable encounters changed his life: one, finding his identity in an ideological match with Heifetz; the other, twenty years later, regaining it after personal and national tragedy with the help of his brother, future prime minister of Israel Moshe Sharett. Soaring music echoes not only the harmonies and discords of one man's life, but also those of a state struggling into being.
Yuval Boim ("Yehuda Sharett") created the role of Caiphas in Yael Farber's Salome, appeared in the film Norman opposite Richard Gere and was most recently seen in HBO's The Plot Against America. He created the role of Yehuda Sharett, for the Primary Stages theater company. Ed Stoppard ("Jascha Heifetz"), currently starring in Tom Stoppard's play Leopoldstadt at London's Wyndham's Theatre, played Lucas Becker in HBO's Trackers, King Philip in The History Channel's Knightfall and also featured in Netflix's The Crown, National Geographic's Genius: Einstein and Roman Polanski's The Pianist. Richard Topol ("Moshe Sharett") has recently starred in Paula Vogel's Indecent at the Vineyard Theater and on Broadway, and appeared in HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm and Fish In The Dark (Broadway) both with Larry David; other Broadway credits include Othello with Denzel Washington and The Merchant Of Venice with Al Pacino and television also includes Genius: Einstein (which co-featured Ed Stoppard) and NBC's Manifest. Mariella Haubs ("The Violinist"), a former student of Itzhak Perlman, has performed at leading venues internationally including Carnegie Hall and the Musikverein in Vienna; in 2014 she performed for Barak and Michelle Obama at the United Nations General Assembly in New York; chamber music collaborations have included Joshua Bell, Renaud Capucon, Lang Lang and Itzhak Perlman. She created the role of The Violinist, for the Primary Stages theater company.
This audio production of A Walk With Mr Heifetz will remain available for general streaming on YouTube here (https://bit.ly/heifetzplay) for three weeks from Thursday May 12th. A supporting feature, a filmed 'round-table' Zoom discussion between the playwright, members of the cast and Yael Medini - the daughter of Moshe Sharett - will be available for streaming on YouTube here (https://bit.ly/Heifetzchat). The audio production is produced by JIMC Israel, and presented in association with The Times Of Israel.
The play 'A Walk With Mr Heifetz' is signed to Broadway Licensing Ltd.. The script has been published by Playscripts. All licensing queries or script purchase enquiries can be directed to Playscripts here, or call +1 866 639 7529.