The ultimate stage setting

Experimental and emotive theater come together at the annual Setting the Stage Festival.

By REBECCA BASKIN
August 27, 2009 19:34
3 minute read.
The ultimate stage setting

dance theater linga 248. (photo credit: )

 
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Some 150 actors, directors and other artists from Israel and abroad will soon be assembling in Tel Aviv for the 10th annual "Setting the Stage" festival, which will take place at ZOA House over two weekends, September 3-5 and 11-12. The festival, which is sponsored by the Beit Lessin Theater, is described as "the most important event in the development of drama in Israel." It was established in 2000 with the goal of discovering the new generation of young Israeli dramatists. This year's festival will feature four full productions, nine staged readings, and three "special events." One of these events is being put on by Ligna, a group from Germany that is looking to change the way we use radio - and in the process, find out what people can do as a collective. In their performance, the audience members are also the performers, with each person receiving directions via a radio transmitter. Ligna's path to the theatre began in 1995, in Hamburg, when the group began producing radio shows. Their first public performance was a "Radio Ballet" in the Hamburg train station in 2002. Tells Ole Frahm, one of the group's three founders, "We invited people to go to the station and listen to our radio. On the radio we played a program with choreography of allowed and forbidden gestures. Giving someone your hand is allowed, normal, and one of the most common gestures at the main station. But if you turn the hand so that its palm is to the sky, like a begging gesture, this is already forbidden. If you turn your hand 45 degrees, [it goes from] an allowed gesture to a forbidden gesture. Security couldn't do anything about it, because the people were dispersed and there were too many to be stopped." Some 300 people participated in the first Radio Ballet, and the group staged other similar events in Germany and abroad. It didn't take long for Ligna to progress from Radio Ballet to theater. "We were thinking it could be interesting to see how our form could contribute to theatre," said Frahm. "[We wanted to see how the radio work we had been doing] is related to traditional theatre, especially modern theatre... where people were thinking that they could change man by theater and art." The piece that Ligna will be bringing to Tel Aviv is about this utopian vision of the 1920's. The performance, The New Man, explores three different characters of the period - poet Bertold Brecht, dancer Rudolf von Laban, director Wsewolod Meyerhold - with a fourth, comedian Charlie Chaplin, who stumbles across the rest. In the performance, there are no "actors". Each audience member receives a radio transmitter, through which they receive instructions for movements, gestures and interactions with other characters. The audience is split into four sections, with each section receiving directions for one of the four different roles. After 15 minutes, the roles are switched. The performance continues until each audience member has played each role. Said Frahm, "What is happening is that the same piece is played 4 times. It gives a sense of déjà vu... [There is the same] start for everyone, everyone is doing the same thing. At a certain point, they are realizing that they are split." "The first 15 minutes you don't know why the others are acting the way they are acting. You are doing your thing and people are crying, clapping their hands, walking in strange ways." Frahm sees the piece as an exploration of the collective aspect of theatre. "[In normal theatre] you sit on your seat and you are in the collective," he said. "We were thinking that it could be interesting to bring this social situation into play. You are acting with people you don't know but you get to know them in a way, but in a very strange way... you don't talk to them, you are just acting with them." For more info visit www.lessin.co.il or call (03) 725-5333.

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