This year’s Acre Festival of Alternative Theater takes place in and around the Old City of Acre from September 21-24, during Hol Hamoed Succot. There will be 11 plays in competition, a visit by the Austin Ballet, guest shows and 32 free street-theater events.

Additionally, this year’s day-long seminar dedicated to the memory of theater critic Shosh Avigal will deal with Holocaust theater in Israel, and the Acre Festival artist-in-residence program hosts glass artist H. Lieberman, who will work with locals to create an exhibition of works in glass.

But this year, before the press conference could get underway, Acre mayor Shimon Lankry and festival organizers were confronted by a raucous, rowdy deputation of actors who demanded payment for their work on the festival.

The dispute deferred, new festival artistic director Gil Alon was asked for his views.

“No comment,” he (wisely) said, and moved instead to discussing the competition plays.

“There were 150 submissions that we reduced to a short list of 50, from which the 11 were chosen. I chose what moved and excited me, the theme being new voices in Israeli play writing and interesting theater language.

The content runs the gamut, from the deeply personal to the intensely political. It’s a quivering compass to our lives here.”

The plays include: My Facebook by Ina Eisenberg and Noa Lazerovitch on Facebook relationships that get tricky when the chips are down; PPPPPPP by Aharon Levin and Yaron Edelstein, a black farce on whether or not to nuke a certain ME country; Max by Amit Erez, a voyage into what comprises self from the Essence Theater, an offshoot of the New Acropolis philosophical movement; from the innovative Incubator Theater comes Eyes Shut by Yasha Krieger about life as an audition; The Old Man and the Violinist by Amit Zarka delves into extremes and the distance between them through the relationship of a child and her former pediatrician, now an old man; and Offstage by Ran Behor and Roy Hertz- Russo in which the obscene, that happened offstage in Greek tragedy, is today enacted in front of us – a journey along the Styx, the river that separates life and death.

The festival’s most important visitor is The Austin Ballet, and Acre is proud to host the international premiere of the five-act Light by Austin Ballet artistic director Stephen Mills. The ballet, inspired by the events of 9/11, had its premiere in 2005. It promotes the protection of human rights against bigotry and hate. It will play at the Wolfson Auditorium on September 23.

Guest productions include director Norman Issa’s acclaimed Eyes, a tribute to the life and works of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008).

As for street theater, it runs the gamut from the circus arts to fantasy, to performance, installations and even video art, with shows lasting from seven minutes to over an hour, and it’s all free. In particular there’s A-TA-KAI from Spain, strolling players with all kinds of surrealist flying and other critters.

Altogether, apart from the festival, Acre is becoming part of Israel’s cultural landscape in a big way. Next year, for instance, the Israel Opera will come to Acre after its performance at Masada and this year the city’s hosting the International Zimriya (Hebrew song festival), not to mention the annual Arab language monodrama festival, Masrahid.

To facilitate the process, “we’re spending NIS 10 million on infrastructure,” said city development head Dudu Harari, “and NIS 15m. on content.”

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