There’s nothing onstage but a screen. Then some titles. Then it’s Superman, it’s the Pink Panther, it’s Kung Fu and Freddie (shiver, shiver) Kruger. It’s a parody of all our favorite genre movies called Matinee, or in Hebrew, Hatzaga Yomit.
And for something completely different, we have Tanach Show, featuring the creation of the world in six – well, more or less, but who’s counting – hilarious minutes, the Tower of Babel and the Exodus, not to mention Noah’s Ark among the rest.
A blend of mime, physical theater, acrobatics, clowning and gibberish, the shows are witty, clever, sophisticated, fun and great for English speakers. The performers, all in their twenties, are graduates of the Nissan Nativ Studio Jerusalem (NNSJ). Yael Maftsir is the only woman. The others are Yitzhak Laor, Dani Brusovany, Daniel Kischinovsky and Yinon Shazo.
In their senior year the class had put on Matinee
, originally created as a class exercise in year two. They’d all participated, and “we liked the genre,” says Shazo. “We decided that’s what we wanted to do. We had no money so we worked anywhere we could get; on rooftops, in corridors, in some very strange rooms.”
Of course they changed the material, says
Kischinovsky, because the original play had a cast
of 12 and they were five. The first goal was a 10-minute presentation, but only the Haifa Children’s Theater Festival and the HaZira Performance Art Arena in Jerusalem responded to the flyers they sent out.
Working on the show in those very early days “was something we could all do in the here and now,” says Kischinovsky, who heads the group, “and even if nothing came of it, we were having fun.” They did the presentation, and that’s when it all started to happen. Zvi Fishzon, their teacher for mime and physical theater at NNSJ came aboard as director. They won Best Play, Director and Ensemble at the ’08 festival in Haifa for Matinee
, went on to perform at HaZira, got rave reviews at that year’s Edinburgh Festival, and represented Israel at a bunch of fringe festivals in Europe.
There were more European festivals in 2009. Then, when they came home again, Arik Eshet, who heads NNSJ, invited them to create a second show for – and join – his five-year-old Jerusalem-based, creation-nurturing Incubator Theater. Tanach Show
, also directed by Fishzon, was the result.
LIKE MIME, physical theater is about letting the body talk. “Zvi [Fishzon] says to us” – and they quote him a lot – “that he likes to deal with things that are bigger than life,” says Brusovany, and Shazo adds: “The essence of physical theater is that it’s bigger, more open-minded, and because there’s no text, the audience must create the interpretation.” Then, enthused, they all chip in to talk about what they do on stage and how they do it, which is with only their black-clad selves and a few, very few, props.
Laor, 28 and eloquent, was born and raised in Jerusalem. When not performing, he teaches drama at high schools. He was an IDF medic before becoming the actor he had wanted to be since childhood. The same is true for Shazo, 27, a Golani veteran, also a Jerusalemite (as are they all), and probably better known there as a hot DJ. Brusovany, 29, came from the USSR as a child. His parents, he says, were observant, and the KGB tossed them out in ’87 lest they influence others. He come naturally by his talent because “the Samuelovs, my father’s family, were actor to the Czar’s court in St. Petersburg.” Brusovany is a bona-fide acrobat and, with his fiancée, actress Anael Blumenthal, is developing an act to be called Acrobadance
Maftsir’s parents arrived from the USSR in the ’70s, but she was born in Jerusalem. She too has been a performer “since before kindergarten,” and is also into sports, teaching Pilates and aerobics when not on-stage. Kischinovsky, 29, quit the yeshiva he was studying at to make pizzas at summer festivals up and down the UK. Watching the actors decided him, and he came home to enroll in NNSJ. He does stand-up, and also has a monodrama called Journey Between the Curtains
Creating a new piece starts with talk, a lot of talk, each of them pushing an idea. The idea becomes actual when “Somebody else latches onto a particular idea.” Then they’re all fizzing, and “it’s time to get up and do it,” says Kischinovsky.
When a sketch is roughed out, they take it to Fishzon. Their
relationship with him “is one of sculptor and material,” says Laor,
“we’re shaped by the hand of a master.” But, in the end, it’s all about
the work. Laor sums up, saying, “Our message is what we do. When you
see five adults letting loose on stage, then truly anything is
possible. The real point is that we approach the story with love.”Matinee
will be staged at the Suzanne Dellal Center on February 11 at 9 p.m. A
performance of Tanach Show is scheduled for the following day at 2 p.m.