For the past 15 years, the seaside community of Bat Yam has hosted a street theater festival. This year’s is the 16th and takes place on and near the Bat Yam boardwalk during hol hamoed Succot from October 2 – 4. Except for one show, all the 23 performances from here and from Europe are free, with seven plays and five dance events, each in its own competition.

By its very definition, street theater relies on – and usually interacts with – the audiences that surround it. This year is no exception. In fact, one of the zaniest, and one of the seven in the competition, is called If You’re Alone Then. It takes place on the No.18 bus traveling between Tel Aviv and Bat Yam between the hours of 6:30 and 9 p.m. The actors of the Soutine 9 Ensemble portray a very pregnant woman, a quarreling couple and a chap who collapses.

Or there’s The Big Bank Robbery from the Playback Theater in which the players dramatize the audiences’ own stories.

How will audiences react? Again by definition, street theater is very political, very topical, and it employs a variety and mix of genres to get the message across. This year’s offerings, says festival co-artistic director Gil Bechar, takes on unemployment, the homeless, the elderly or the idiocy of war in pieces such as clown Jerome Aroush’s Anything Can Happen.

The eight shows from abroad include Suspend’s Tango, a collaboration between Israeli video artists and French aerialists; 75+ is from Spain’s Fadunito, an elderly and mostly impaired group whose disabilities must contend with the environment; and Ceci 3.0, also from Spain, features an empty wheelchair.

How do we deal with the different, the other, asks the show’s creator, Ferran Orobitij. And from France comes Murder at the Motel, a non-verbal comedy with Yann and Ivan Lescop.

Dance at the festival includes MASSA, a work for dancers, and enormous files from Seminar Hakibbutzim. Anonymous is an interdisciplinary piece that takes place on a pedestrian crossing. And Home Less Eat tackles the thin line between sanity and mental illness.

There’s a poetry competition in Hebrew, a roving clown show called Monsters and much more.

The Bat Yam Festival, formally named Street C.A.T Festival Bat Yam, is budgeted at NIS 2.5 million. The CAT stands for creative artistic theater. The kids will love it, mostly. Activities start at 4:30 p.m.

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