It isn’t every day that an American stage director has the notion of producing an Israeli play and taking it on the road. But Guy Ben-Aharon isn’t every American stage director. Tired of hearing laments about the myriad ways that plays aren’t reaching the public, Ben-Aharon decided he would breach convention and fashion his own unorthodox circuit.
The director is taking “Oh, God,” an 85-minute, two-person comedy by the late Israeli dramatist Anat Gov, on tour to 10 venues on the East Coast, including Wednesday at the University of Maryland, under the auspices of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies. The tour also will stop in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and, tentatively, Florida.
“We’ve done it at a dozen academic institutions, and the response has been powerful,” says Ben-Aharon, a young Emerson College graduate who five years ago founded Boston-based Israeli Stage, which produces staged readings of Israeli plays. After presenting “Oh, God” in Boston in 2013, Ben-Aharon found that universities, in particular, were eager to import programming that could be entertaining and thought provoking.
The play, about the day God went to see a psychotherapist, is an exploration of modern spirituality, Ben-Aharon says, “this idea of God in a secular society, and what he means to each of us. It’s just a delicious script. I had no idea what a big impact it would have.”
Audiences are invited to stay and talk after the play. Occasionally someone brings up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ben-Aharon says, to which he responds, “How does that have anything to do with the show you just saw?”
For Ben-Aharon, the play’s drawing power for the young interests him more.
“I was in college,” he says, “and I was so annoyed that people were saying that young people didn’t go to the theater. We have to find ways to bring the shows to them.”
Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Atrium, Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, Campus Drive, College Park. www.israelstudies.umd.edu/upcoming-events.html. Free. Seating is first come, first served. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. After the performance, there will be a brief Q&A with director Guy Ben-Aharon and the actors.