aviva marks 298.
(photo credit: David Deutsch)
Shakespeare's line about Cleopatra might have been written for Aviva Marks, the English-born actress who came here to live in 1967. Truly "age cannot wither her" and although her actual age is a closely guarded secret that even the Mossad wouldn't be able to break, she is now playing grandmothers rather than young ing nues, which might be a clue. However, to my mind she is as beautiful as ever, with the same peaches-and-cream complexion and long blonde hair she had when she made aliya. Still with the delicacy of a piece of Dresden china, one suspects she is tougher than she looks having made a career in the cutthroat world of Israeli theater.
Marks was very well-prepared to make aliya, having spent her teenage years here in high school and later having served in the army. Her father was a rabbi and the family was none too thrilled when she joined a very left-wing, secular youth movement, Hashomer Hatza'ir. But it was also a very Zionist family. It was the Six Day War that pushed her into leaving London and a burgeoning career in British theater and joining the many immigrants who took the miracle victory as a sign that Israel was waiting for them. During the war she wanted to come out but was asked to stay and help the Jewish Agency as she knew Hebrew. Her job was to help process the many eager volunteers who were clamoring to join the war effort, and her work was well covered in the British press.
"I agreed to help," she recalls, "and I told them that it would be on condition that the minute the war is over, I can go back to Israel."
From the airplane she went to stay with a distant relative in Haifa, but knew she must find a place in Tel Aviv as that was and still is the main center of theatrical activity. She stayed in a small hotel while she looked for a place to buy.
She finally used all her savings and bought a two-room apartment in a building in one of those leafy pleasant streets in North Tel Aviv, and she's still there in what is now an old building but with a very pretty renovated (many times over) apartment which she shares with her husband of 25 years, Col. Alush Noy, holder of the country's highest award for valor.
Being a Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate and having connections with the Cameri Theater from her earlier sojourn, she quickly joined the repertory theater and immediately began getting good parts in plays like Noel Coward's Hay Fever and Peter Nichols's A Day in the Life of Joe Egg. She played Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream and so impressed playwright Nissim Aloni that he wanted to write a part for her, which meant also acting at Habimah for a few years. Television was just beginning here in the early 1970s, and it also provided work from time to time.
"I'd been here in the '50s and compared to that life was much easier, it was luxury compared to what went before. Material things never mattered to me anyway and somehow, looking back, we were closer to the real values of life; there was no cynicism like today. No, you couldn't get things, it's true; there was nothing here - except adrenalin, and there was plenty of that."
With days taken up with rehearsals and evenings with performances, there was no time left for much else.
"It might sound a bit conceited to say so, but I was up against a lot of jealousy. The critics and the audience were very kind, but there was a lot of undermining from the company. I was continuously reminded that I have an accent, and I was made to feel I didn't belong."
In the last two years, she has worked with the Gesher company, where everyone has a Russian accent and nobody is bothered by it.
She learned Hebrew while doing her army service and has never had a problem with the language. Besides acting she is a translator and has worked for years on translating and reading poetry.
BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL
"The fact that it is. I really don't want to talk about the awfulness. It doesn't affect my basic adoration of the place - it is my first love."
LIFE SINCE ALIYA
In spite of what is generally acknowledged to be a precarious profession, she has always had work and still does. Over the years she has acted in theater, television and cinema.
"I've made a thousand movies which all sank without trace," she laughs. One of her favorite roles was as Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady a few years ago. She appeared for several years in a television game, Celebrity Squares, and only last year made a series of winning advertisements for Castro in which she played a rather na ve grandmother of a very cool and wild granddaughter. In the late '70s she was chosen by a women's magazine to represent Israel in an Italian search for the "Ideal Woman" - and won the title.
"Yes, I regret that I went back to London after my army service. I should have learned acting here, even at the expense of missing RADA. I was a lot younger and I might have lost my accent and been more acceptable and mainstream."
ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS
"Don't come," she laughs - she is known for her impish sense of humor. Then she amends her first reaction.
"Come if it's for the right reasons. It's like getting married. You don't marry for money or status and, in the same way, you come if your heart tells you it's the right thing to do. I haven't improved my financial situation one little bit - I'm still living in the same two-room apartment. But I always followed my heart."
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