tiny ninjas 88.
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One fine spring day in 2000, Dov Weinstein was walking down a Manhattan street and destiny trod on his foot, because in New York it doesn't do anything so clich d as tap you on the shoulder.
"I saw all these tiny little ninjas in this vending machine. They were one for a quarter. I got as many as I had quarters, about two or three, and as I held them I thought 'you could do classical theater with these, and nobody's doing it'."
Thus was born The Tiny Ninja Theater that is coming to the Acre Festival presents Macbeth. Absolutely. It's Shakespeare's Scottish play abridged to about 40 minutes, but every single word is his. Macbeth and his fearsome Lady are played by Mr. and Mrs. Smiley from different vending machines, who are about 2 inches to the ninjas' one. Actually, says Weisbrod, "when I found Mr. Smiley, I was thinking Richard III, but then I found Mrs. Smiley and it was obvious to me that she was born to play Lady Macbeth. It must have been the pink bow in her hair."
Macbeth it was and Weinstein jotted down the concept on pages torn from a loose-leaf notebook and sent it to that year's New York International Fringe Festival. The deadline came and went and he heard nothing. Then three weeks after that he got the go-ahead and the rest is history.
With Weinstein doing all the voices and operating the ninjas, Macbeth became an instant critical and popular success and one of the festival's big, hits. It's been playing ever since all over the US and at European festivals. Now there's also a TNT Romeo and Juliet ('02) and a Hamlet ('04) "that's still cooking and what's next I don't know yet."
Weinstein is a soft-spoken, attractive 30-year-old with a brown kipa perched on curly brown hair and lively eyes that regard the world with humor. He's been here since August studying Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem "to improve my spoken Hebrew and to learn to read and write properly."
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Weinstein was six when his family immigrated in 1981. His mother, a registered nurse, worked at Tipat Halav (well-baby clinic), and his father was in school. However, those were the years when the economy went into hyperinflation. The family couldn't make it and so returned to the US, but Weinstein retained the Hebrew he learned here in school.
Though he has a bachelors degree in philosophy from Brown University, he continued the theater classes he'd started in high school. After graduation "it was either grad school or the theater, and I decided on theater."
He went to Italy to study the commedia dell'arte with mask maker and commedia master Antonio Fava. There he met a Swedish commedia troupe, made friends with them and made plans to work together. That didn't work out, so he went back to Wisconsin and worked for a while as a fork lift operator in his family's wholesale wine and liquor business.
But Weinstein stayed in touch with the Swedes, a connection that led to his moving to Sweden where, in the summer of 1999, he and one of the troupe put together "a kind of commedia clown show that we called Snow White for Suckers in English that never really got off the ground. It should have been a winner," he says, and giggles gloriously.
That's when he returned to the US and moved to New York where he got a job in an office that provided entertainment for corporate events and parties, worked here and there in off-off Broadway, and tried to find a group that he could work with but a lot of the time "I didn't enjoy the experiences and I got very frustrated."
The ninja revelation that spring day utterly banished frustration, and "right now I get a lot of satisfaction from work I enjoy doing. I get to see a lot of interesting places. What more can a person ask for?"
And Weinstein still buys all his ninjas from vending machines. It's part of the process.
The TNT Macbeth will play twice nightly from October 18-20. Audience is provided with little binoculars to see the show. Space is limited.