If indeed the whole world is a stage, then it follows that there is no need for a performance to be confined to a defined area or time frame. Israeli multidisciplinary artist Ariel Efraim Ashbel and Berlin-based American choreographer Isabel Lewis, along with fellow performers Yair Reshef, Osnat Kelner and Jan-Sebastien Suba, will take full advantage of that unfettered approach when they put on their new work Giant at this year’s Israeli Fringe Theater Festival in Acre from October 1 to October 4.
In fact, originally Giant was supposed to kick off when the festival opens and just keep on rolling, day and night, until the 33rd annual Acre fringe bash ends.
Ashbel recounts that one of his primary school teachers asked the class what they thought the largest island in the world was before Australia was discovered. “It was a neat introduction to the idea of something possibly not existing if it was not observed by an outside party,” says the 30- year-old Ashbel.
He explains that the Giant event timeline was adapted to accommodate that mindset. “We realized there was not much point in continuing to perform if there was no audience to see us at night.”
Even so, Giant will occupy a significant slot at the Acre event, running for three hours on the first day – which only starts in the evening – and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the remaining three days of the festival.
The Giant blog explains that the piece is “a space for the creation, evaluation and analysis of images, which will be active throughout the duration of the festival. We will offer a variety of entertaining services, while exposing the process of building a piece that remains unfinished. The only decision we’re bringing into this ongoing practice is to approach as many ideas as possible that we’ve put away in the drawer, either due to lack of courage or in favor of organizing concepts, and give them the respect they deserve.”
According to Ashbel, it is not exactly a new concept. “In the 1970s there were lots of artists who stayed in a creation space for a whole week or more and lived there and worked there, regardless of whether there was an audience present. I really wanted Giant to work non-stop throughout the festival; but as soon as I realized we wouldn’t have an audience at night, I said we won’t be there then, either.”
Okay, so Giant won’t be performed at night, but it’s still hard to get a handle on what the public will actually see over the almost 40 hours of the event.
Says Ashbel, “What we do know is that there are five of us performers who will be in the performance space 12 hours a day. We will have all sorts of apparatus and equipment, and there will be all kinds of video screenings.”
The group will use a range of intriguing paraphernalia, some of which will be created for the show by Reshef. “I call him the mad scientist,” says Ashbel. “He is always inventing something and he has made some robots for Giant – nothing too complex.”
Ashbel says the undefined nature of the show is in keeping with the Acre festival ethos.
“When you apply to participate, you submit a general idea which, if it is accepted, you present during the festival.” Despite Ashbel’s reluctance, or inability, to give a concrete description of what we will see in Giant, there is a partially structured theme. “We are holding several rehearsals, and we will have a general rehearsal in Acre before the festival starts,” he says. “We won’t work on the actual things we will perform, but we’ll work on the various reference points that we will use.” It will be a work in progress.
“The audience will see the evolution of Giant over the four days,” Ashbel continues, adding that the five participants will follow the development of the work as it unfolds. “We don’t know exactly what we will do, but we know the things that interest us and the subject matter we’ll want to work on,” he says.
The various group members will take turns to lead the action. “We will each have an hour in which we dictate what we do in the space,” says Ashbel.
As for meal breaks in Giant, they will be incorporated into the creative flow. “We will have a break of an hour to eat, and we’ll have all sorts of guests, and it will turn into a sort of talk show,” says Ashbel.
Music will also be central to the event, and free-flowing jazz pianist Maya Dunitz will be on hand on one of the four days to provide musical accompaniment. One of the other Giant guests will be actress Na’ama Schendar, who has overseen several artistic enterprises with Jewish and Arab children over the years. “Na’ama will put on her show as part of Giant,” says Ashbel.
“It will be a sort of show within a show.”
It sounds like Ashbel and his cohorts have their work cut out for them. Not only will they have to find their way through their individual and joint creative avenues, but they will also be at work for most of their waking hours. “I wouldn’t have done this without Isabel,” admits Ashbel. “I think it will be a lot of fun.”.
For more information about Giant and the Israeli Fringe Theater Festival in Acre: www.accofestival.co.il