This year’s Acre Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater from October 1-4 surges and pulses with vivid imagination, creative energy and artistic determination.

On offer are 11 plays competing for cash prizes, as well as guest productions, exhibitions, special events and a giant cornucopia of 38 free shows in a bouquet of genres from clowning to installations and performance art.

One these freebies is Company with Balls, a troupe from Holland that will parade through the alleyways of Acre’s Old City with a four-meter high puppet as just one of the attractions.

One of the most intriguing of the 11 competition plays is Giant by Ariel. E. Eshbal and Isobel Lewis, an Israeli-Geman collaboration on process of all kinds that plays continuously for 12 hours. The purchase of a ticket allows you to come and go at will.

New faces at Acre include Daniel Zehavi with Sunrises; Family Dinner – four short plays by Ariel Bronz; and dancer/choreographer Aharona Israel with Marathon, her first play.

Other shows include The Peacock from Silwan that is presented in a private home in the Old City; We’re Building a Port Here, a rap-type based entertainment; and Hyssop Poison by Arab-Israeli playwright Ala Halihel.

All the plays, whether serious or comic, “don’t pull any punches. This year, as previously, we rummage and delve into our existence, even if we draw blood,” said outgoing artistic director Smadar Ya’aron at a recent press conference. She is a founding director of the Jewish-Arab Acre Theater Center and, with her colleague Moni Yosef, has been guiding the festival since 2009. Both will receive a special prize on opening night in appreciation of their work.

The incoming artistic director for Acre 2013 is director, playwright and actor Gil Alon, who works a lot in Europe, has remained determinedly outside the mainstream for his entire career, and won awards for his direction of George Tabori's unsettling Mein Kampf at Acre last year.

The festival manages on the small budget of some NIS 3 million plus, most of which comes from the Culture Ministry and the Acre Municipality. Acre mayor Shimon Lankry mentioned that Bank Hapoalim had donated NIS 100,000, a truly munificent contribution.

Tickets range from NIS 35 – NIS 75 and, of course, there are all kinds of deals.

If you’ve never been, and you understand Hebrew, then go. It’s one of our great festivals.

To find out more about the festival, go to www.accofestival.co.il – it’s in English.

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