Natan Datner 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Zirar Alon))
With an illustrious career as an actor and director, Natan Datner returns to the
stage as both in Art, a modern “dramedy” about testing the bounds of friendship
and defining what is art, at the Haifa Theater this month.
Three men who
have been friends for 15 years, Mark (Datner), Serge (Ohad Knoller) and Ivan
(Norman Issa), find their strong bond challenged when Serge pays some 200,000
francs for an ultra-modern painting that is simply a white canvas. While Mark
attacks Serge for the decision, Ivan tries to make peace between the two, but
soon gets caught up in the quarrel. The disagreement fuels a deeper fight among
the men, getting personal, and causes them to question the love and patience
they have for one another.
Originally in French and written by Yasmina
Reza, the play premiered in 1994 in Paris, and was first produced in Israel by
the Beit Lessin Theater in Tel Aviv in 1996 with Yossi Banai, Sasson Gabai and
Avi Uriah as the three friends.
Datner, 55, says he identifies with his
character’s reaction to the piece of art, but not to the way Mark treats his
“I also lose my patience when modern art sometimes challenges me
with a stupid agenda and places a type of analytical conversation without any
connection to feeling, which is the place that art must first of all touch,” he
Datner adds that he doesn’t identify with his character Mark’s
desire to make his friends share the same (his) taste, opinions and views on
To prepare for the role, he says, “I tried a little to delve into
what they call contemporary art and I tried to test the system of relationships
with my friends via the prism of the play.”
Before serving as director of
the Beersheba Theater from 2004-2010, where he directed a slew of plays, since
the ’80s Datner’s name has been a recognizable staple on television shows, in
film and songwriting.
Datner, who in 1991 received the Klachkin award for
outstanding actors and artists, received critical acclaim for his 2008
performance as the iconic Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof
at the Cameri
The veteran talent approaches his actors in Art as a fellow
actor, he says.
“I really understand the difficulties they have,” Datner
says, adding that as a director he has worked on knowing when to push and when
to give the actors space.
“There’s no doubt this... is a great
combination,” he says of being both an actor and director.
passionate and expressive Mark is a good role for him, Datner says he prefers
guiding the actors.
“An actor only has to worry about his performance,
but the director sees the bigger picture of the show and is responsible for the
entire atmosphere,” he says. “I can say more as a director.”
his early childhood in Ramat Gan, Datner has known he was destined for the
stage. His father, a carpenter, built him a guitar, giving him his first
platform to perform.
“Once I had my own guitar I started to sing all
over, wherever I could,” he says – in his family’s salon, for the young ladies
in his neighborhood and on the balcony for all to hear, “until they shouted,
‘Quiet! Everybody’s sleeping now!’”
In high school, an influential theater class
and teacher turned him on to acting. Soon after, he says, he began to see plays
and fall in love with theater. During his time at the Beersheba Theater,
where he started in 1979, he says he became an actor, a role he was always meant
“You’ve got to be born an actor, it’s not something you can
learn,” he says.
Performances of Art begin running January 19. For