An abundance at Acre

This year’s Israeli Fringe Theater Festival features 68 productions, hundreds of performances, an art fair and a topical panel discussion.

‘Let’s Play’ 521 (photo credit: Eyal Landesman)
‘Let’s Play’ 521
(photo credit: Eyal Landesman)
As every year, the statistics of the 32nd edition of the Israeli Fringe Theater Festival, which takes place in Acre between October 16 and October 19, make for impressive reading. There will be no less than 68 different productions and hundreds of performances over the four days, culled from a wide array of artistic disciplines, including theater and dance, street theater and video art, musical productions and interactive events. Add to that a social-artistic panel discussion, an arts fair and a special berth for young artists from Israel and abroad to strut their stuff, and you get a definitively and commensurately wellrounded bash in the true exploratory spirit of the Acre festival.
There is also a highly topical thematic strand that runs through some of the items at Acre this year.
Naturally, the tent cities and social unrest have not escaped the attentions of the event organizers, and the festival’s main symposium will address the issue of how the social movement is portrayed in Israeli theater. The Protest and Revolution Theater event will be emceed by culture and theater researcher and lecturer Dr.
Diti Ronen, who will oversee a panel of leading figures from the Israeli cultural community, including musician, artist and scriptwriter Roi Arad, university theater lecturer Dr. Shuli Alajam and rock musician and record producer Yonatan Levy.
The Acre festival always has an intrinsic street level feel to it, and the Artist Resident project is designed to help the public enjoy a more immediate performance experience by addressing the metaphorical “fourth wall” through which audiences view the onstage activity.
Artist Resident incorporates an exhibition of works by graduates of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, which focuses on the subject of design in space and within the confines of structures.
The fourth wall is thoroughly breached in one of the more thoughtprovoking productions in this year’s Acre lineup, the unequivocally entitled Mein Kampf play, written by Hungarian-born half-Jewish playwright George Tabori and directed by Gil Alon.
Alon says he has no qualms about the title. “The name is just the name, but the important element is the quality of the play,” declares Alon, adding that he is no stranger to material of this ilk. “As an actor, I have been involved in so many plays about the Holocaust, so for me, this is nothing out of the ordinary.”
But there is something definitively left field about Mein Kampf, which Tabori wrote in 1987, not least the physical context in which the story unfolds. The play is set in a flophouse in Vienna and features a wily old Jewish hawker of Bibles and Korans named Herzl, who is joined by Hitler. The latter, at this stage, is a struggling artist who is trying to gain entrance to art school. Herzl helps Hitler clean up his act, but when the budding painter is rejected by the college, the Jew advises him to go into politics.
There is an abundance of black humor throughout the play, and the immediacy of Tabori’s messages is enhanced by the fact that the members of the audience sit on the bunk beds of the flophouse around the eight actors.
“The actors talk to the audience,” explains Alon, “and at one point Hitler shows his paintings to the audience.”
Alon says he had plenty to work with on the play and that the audience will get plenty of food for thought to go away with. “I have wanted to do Mein Kampf for 20 years,” he says, “so it has been cooking inside me for quite a while. Also, there are so many strata to Tabori’s work, so many messages.”
Such as? “Why people go to war and why people hate each other,” Alon proffers. “But the play is such a work of genius that each and every sentence in the script has at least 10 different levels of meaning. We devoted a lot of time to analyzing the text because it has an abundance of social, philosophical, religious and political messages – each and every sentence, literally.”
Alon says that Acre is just the place to offer the play to the Israeli public. “People who come to this festival know they are going to get something out of the ordinary. Acre has done all kinds of controversial things before. People come to the festival prepared for non-conventional experiences.”
Alon also believes that Tábori had an advantage in presenting both sides of the Holocaust coin. “His father was Jewish (he perished in Auschwitz in 1944), and his mother was Christian.” Tabori’s mother and brother managed to escape the Nazis.
“Tabori does not hold back in relation to either side. He has things to say about the Nazis and the Jews. It is not just about criticism. He looks at things on a human level and not just from a historical perspective.”
One thing is for sure: No one will leave the performance unmoved.
Elsewhere in the Acre lineup, Tom Barkai’s 10- minute dance slot Super Ego addresses our inner thoughts and what drives us, while Daniel Botzer’s music-based production Dead Band looks at the twilight zone between celestial realms and the world of the living.
2006 Acre festival prizewinning directorpuppeteer and storyteller Naomi Yoeli returns to the fray with a highly emotive production called Nafitz: Tayarut Milhama (Explosive: War Tourism), which also goes by the explanatory subtitle “A Documentary Fantasy about War and Bereavement.”
Acre’s standing as a city with a mixed population always features in the festival, and Bashar Murkus’s Arabic-language production Habliblibel, with Hebrew subtitles, takes the absurd theatrical road to examining the philosophical question of life in abeyance. The text comes from late author and poet Mahmoud Darwish’s book Memory for Forgetfulness.
Other productions to watch out for include Udi Nir’s Torah shel Eshet Hashagrir (The Law of the Ambassador’s Wife), a tragic farce about the near future, which will be performed at the Acre Municipality building, and RU There? about an impossible cross-border relationship between an Israeli reserve soldier who can’t leave the war behind and a Dutch woman looking for her real identity.
Further information about the festival is available at