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(photo credit: Courtesy)
From cell phones to sitting shiva, the 25th Acre Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater 2007 touches practically every aspect of Israeli life, while also offering a wide array of foreign talent and street performances that make a visit to the UNESCO-recognized historic city on the sea a must this Succot.
Since its inception in 1982 under the eye of Oded Kotler, the festival has grown by leaps and bounds, taking advantage of the burgeoning renovations of the city's historic spaces that create incredible backdrops to the performances, which spill out into the city's streets during the four-day celebration. The aim, as festival organizers say, has always been to find "the unobtrusive connection between the creation and location." Be it the shuk, the knights' halls or the ramparts, there's not a site in the town, whose mixed population, winding streets and alluring coast are a treat in themselves, that doesn't play host to some kind of event while the festival's on.
Some of the offerings are even mobile events. This year's entries include, among others, <>Come Over, We'll See by Or Azoulay, which has the audience literally go for a ride with six characters through the city streets as they listen to a conversation between them via their cellphone.
Rinat Moskona's Sitting has the audience share time with those sitting shiva for a relative, exploring the traditions connected to the practice, but also delving more deeply into its meaning for those involved.
Avital Dvory's Tranquila revolves around a young woman hospitalized abroad, hovering between life and death. Imaginary figures emerge, and the "aerial circus" features clowns, puppetry and dance.
Guest productions and performers from Israel and abroad are also, as usual, a focal point of the festival's happenings. This year they include Ephraim Kishon's On the Tip of Your Tongue, a series of skits by Israel's national humorist focusing on relationships; To Be, by the Acre Theater Center, in which a woman with an eating disorder shares her problem with the audience, who also have parts; and Torn, also by the Acre Theater Center, in which a man must choose between his Arab wife and his Jewish lover, and the dual identities with which he struggles.
Foreign offerings at the festival include the Teatr Cinema of Poland; The Chickens, a mobile street performance featuring three giant chickens, from France; the Mime Daniel, also from France; Jan Manske and The El Diabolo Show, from Germany; Adam Read from Australia; the musical performance Ananke from Italy; and the acrobatic Delirium circus from Spain.
However, it's the events in the city's streets that really make the festival a special occasion. This year, these include Tied Up, an "aerial ballet performance" about the relationship between two women, to take place along Acre's Eastern Wall; Uri and Noa Weiss's Cirque No Problem, billed as a throwback to wandering circus troupes of the 20th Century, who perform at the Tourist Parking Area; the bizarre 'Bury the Dead' is Not Yet Lost in which a general's speech applauding the nation for its sacrifices is interrupted by beings from another world who emerge from the ground, based on Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead and being offered at The Well; and Oh, Dear! - The Schlepper Is Here, featuring the juggling Edgar the Clown at the Moat Gardens, to name just a handful of the delightful and often provocative outdoor acts.
Other special events include a "sound art installation" called Between Lublin and Acre inspired by Martin Buber's Gog and Magog and featuring characters ranging from Rabbi Nachman of Braslav to Napoleon. The exhibition Extending Hands Beyond Borders focuses on how art allows the individual to see beyond his or her own boundaries. Where's Dana, a multidisciplinary group, takes to the water for Hayama!, a sort of reverse illegal immigration, with a group heading to the Mediterranean to set up an aquatic settlement as the audience looks on.
This year's organizers are stressing young performers, with a stronger emphasis on street theater and performances. With the now world-recognized beauty and history of the city as its backdrop, the 25th Acre Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater is sure to provide some amazing experiences.