‘Slaughterhouse Five’ directed by Sivan Handelsman.
(photo credit: ACCOFESTIVAL.CO.IL)
In the fall of 1980, iconoclastic young actor and theater director Oded Kotler, passionate arts-nurturer Yossi Frost and their colleagues initiated, on a wing and a prayer, the Acre Festival of Alternative Theater. It’s been going strong ever since, its basic format unchanged, showcasing new ideas by young and hungry Israeli playwrights who feel they’ve something to say about the form and themes of theater.
Over the years there’ve been additions, such as street theater, living statues, guest performances and this year, the participation of six companies from abroad.
Acre 2015, held as ever in and around the Crusader fortress in the Old City from September 29 to October 1, offers nine plays in competition.
Superb avant garde actor/ playwright Gil Alon, who’s serving his third and final year as artistic director, rejoices that the plays are multi and interdisciplinary, and that “there’s a marked female voice this year with a cornucopia of talents addressing the issues that burn in their souls.”
The nine productions include the psychedelic rock opera Slaughterhouse Five by Orit Lichtenshtadt based on the iconic classic by Kurt Vonnegut in which the firebombing of Dresden frames the hallucinatory images and existence of Billy Pilgrim; artist Daphne Perlstein conceived and curated Perlstein, a new apprehension of and attitude to the Holocaust; The Princess Doesn’t Eat Cheeseburgers, the multi-lingual, multi-disciplinary look into evil loosely based on Rabbi Nachman’s The King’s Lost Daughter, is by versatile theater artist and teacher Ruthie Osterman who won Acre in 2008 with Twenty- Two Pictures; Yael Tal, witty and sharp-penned observer of contemporary Israel’s flavor and foibles is back with the satirical Kol Ha-Kavod. She and her team won in 2012 with the pointed A Donkey Eats an Orange; M.C. Coriolanus, adapted by Itai Doron from Dori Parnes’ translation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, showcasing our own reality via the travails of Roman general Coriolanus who, in the name of righteousness, trashes the republic he and his countrymen created.
Moving along, the international contingent comes from the Czech Republic (CR), the US, Holland/Canada (H/C), Macedonia and China, the latter of which is sending two folk-dance companies.
The acclaimed Spitfire (CR) is returning for the second year with Antiwords, a performance for two actresses, oversize masks and Czech beer (great stuff, I kid you not!), based on a play and a movie by Václav Havel; admired US composer/choreographer John Moran sweeps us along on a journey from Bangkok to the performance space, an odyssey he describes as the “musicality of memory”. In English, of course! Happy End from Macedonia is set in Germany’s 1930s Weimar Republic while the happily experimental Letters from Another Island (H/C) presents six characters giving a go at coping with our, and other, worlds.
There are some 10 street theater and 10 living statue events, late night live music (Gypsy, Yemenite) on the main venue lawn, photo exhibitions, not forgetting the opening gala, a live concert featuring songs from Noyfeld’s Spectacles, the best-selling album by Acre native son Roy Noyfeld.
If you go for the dress rehearsals tickets are NIS 40, otherwise they’re NIS 75 with reductions for seniors and students.
And be warned – parking is difficult because every year some 300,000 people, including the 30,000 or so that pack the performances, visit Acre over these four days.