In the midst of the Jewish holiday of Succot, modern-day Israelis added a new celebration. Just as the ancient Israelites journeyed to Jerusalem for the holiday, hundreds of thousands of hungry culture-goers flock annually to the old city of Acre during Hol Hamoed to witness the latest harvest of alternative theater. Now in its 30th season, The Acre Fringe Theater Festival is as adventurous as ever with 450 diverse performances which will challenge typical notions of theater.
Smadar Ya'aron, who is co-directing the festival for the first time with Moni Yosef, explains, "We are looking for pieces of theater which propose another approach, whether it's visually, or concerning the content or other aspects of the theatrical event ...What is also important for us is that the theater will be daring ...To dare to do a step, to dare to say something which is maybe not so popular, to dare to try and explore."
This year's lineup certainly promises a wealth of bold, experimental creations. Some works blur the borders between disciplines, such as the offering from the motion theater Makhol, which includes paintings by visual artist Kim Goldberg. Other selections inventively refigure the relationship between performers and viewers. Stage Fright is presented by one performer to one spectator, while in Les Souffleurs Comandos Posiques, actors whisper secrets into the ears of the audience via pipes. Puppet theater, physical theater, pantomime, light shows and a variety of street theater add to the festival's eclectic mix.
While the works themselves may be departures from conventional theater, the programming reflects a sense of continuity and tradition. As in previous years, the 2009 Acre Fringe Theater Festival includes a prestigious competition for ten selected works. Several events are also designed to pay tribute to the festival's 30-year run, including a special symposium, a photography exhibition and a retrospective by the Ghetto Fighters' House in honor of the play Arbeit Macht Frei fun Toitland Europa, which was performed 15 years ago at the festival.
Yet in their debut as directors, Ya'aron and Yosef have placed a fresh twist on the Acre Fringe Theater Festival. Yosef notes that this year's schedule boasts a wider array of international guests hailing from Japan, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic. Even as the program features a more global component, Yosef reveals that there is also greater emphasis on local flavor. Initiated by the festival, Pablo Ariel's Whispering All, takes audience members on a tour of the old city and Yoav Bertel and Avigail Rubin's A Compensating Experience, follows six Acre residents who took part in last year's riots. Project Acre, a co-production of the festival and the city's new center for culture, youth, and sports, includes Jewish and Arab Israelis as well as performers from France, Lebanon, Iran and England.
Meanwhile, local Jewish and Arab youth took part in an artist-in-residence project and will present their creations as part of the festival. Yosef states,"We want very much for the festival to be a bridge between the culture and society." As these works tackle the complex cultural issues which characterize Acre, forge interaction and spur dialogue, they establish a powerful link between art and life. Alternative never felt so real.
The Acre Fringe Theater Festival takes place from October 4-8. Tickets are available at
www.garber-tickets.co.il and (04) 838-4777.
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