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Grant and Daniella Crankshaw pack so much into every day, it was almost impossible for them to find the time to be interviewed. Eventually, they had a couple of spare hours between the morning and afternoon performances of the recent Guild Theater production of Smoke and Mirrors. In the charity production of the musical, Grant played the fairy godfather and Daniella was one of ugly sisters. It was while studying drama in their native South Africa that the couple met, and the performing arts have remained a shared passion ever since.
South African-born Grant is the son of a Methodist minister. He has four brothers. Daniella's parents made aliya from the UK in 1960. Her father was born in Egypt to a British father and a German mother. Daniella was born here. "When I was three, my family went to live in the UK and returned to Israel two years later. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, my parents left Israel and took me and my elder brother to South Africa."
She went to a Jewish day school in Johannesburg and met Grant in 1984 at the University of Witwatersrand, where they were both studying drama. After university, Grant began his two-year army service, which was mandatory for white South Africans. He was in the marching band. While in the army, he converted to Judaism.
They were married in Johannesburg in 1988. Their son, Jared, was born in 1994. Grant worked as a handyman to begin with, and eventually established his own computer cable networking company. Daniella obtained a diploma in public relations and worked in that field, as well as helping Grant to run the business. At the same time, as Daniella Roman, the stage name she still uses, she worked professionally as an actress and singer.
"We were both working; we had a big house and nice cars. Then we thought, now what?" recalls Grant. They began to consider aliya as a new and challenging direction for their lives.
"Israel is ideal for kids. We wanted Jared to grow up in Israel so he could experience freedom and independence, and learn to express himself," says Daniella.
They were accepted for Aliya 2000, the Jewish Agency program that attempts to answer immigrants' needs throughout their aliya process, beginning with assistance in their country of origin through to the immigrants' successful absorption and integration in Israel. "We thought the program would be fun and that it would provide a secure environment from the beginning, and employment for the future," says Grant.
The Crankshaws started life in the absorption center in Ra'anana. "A supply of comedic material for my future stand-up routine began at exactly the same moment," says Grant. "The 'Hotel Mercaz Klita' did not quite meet the standards as depicted by the shaliah in South Africa, who failed to mention that we had to live in a closet and bathe our son in a bucket."
Under the Aliya 2000 program, six months of ulpan was followed by a six-month course on international marketing and foreign trade. The course was given in Hebrew; the organizers' reasoning being that six months of ulpan would have provided participants with sufficient knowledge of the language. "Shows how much they knew," remarks Grant wryly. Following completion of the course, participants were supposed to be placed in positions in marketing and the import/export business. "The idea was to attract English speakers - English thinkers - into these positions," he recalls. "It was a brilliant idea, but not that well executed."
On her own initiative, Daniella found a job in marketing, eventually becoming director of marketing at Pitango Venture Capital. Today she runs her own marketing company. After two years working in a hi-tech company, Grant once again became a handyman. He now undertakes everything from minor repairs to major renovations.
To call it a hobby would be understating the intense love the Crankshaws have for the performing arts. Almost as soon as they arrived, they looked for amateur dramatics groups that performed in English. They have both appeared in a variety of stage productions, and have represented Israel in drama festivals in Ireland and Scotland. They were nominated for the adjudicators' award at the festival in Ireland.
Over the past couple of years, Grant has developed a stand-up comedy routine. "I could always see the funny side of life - particularly here in Israel. I first tried out my material on a group of friends that I invited to the coffee shop in Gan Haim. That was painless enough, so I organized a show in a club in Ra'anana where I was the warm up for two English-speaking comedy acts from Jerusalem. Now I perform my own material solo on stage and I am establishing a faithful following among the local Anglo community."
In addition to acting and directing, Daniella writes poetry and was nominated one of the 200 best poets of 2004 by the International Society of Poetry. Although she doesn't have any formal musical training, she composes songs and performs regularly on stage. A song she composed was runner-up in the International Song of the Year competition in 2004. She has recorded her own demo CD and is marketing her music here.
"What is a routine, exactly?" asks Daniella. "There is so much going on in our lives. The only routine we really manage to achieve is anything to do with Jared. We feel it is important to provide him with stability and a semblance of routine. He has adjusted very well to our lifestyle. He has grown up in the theater; sometimes falling asleep on-stage, backstage or in the aisle."
"We keep our chins above water."
For the past four years the Crankshaws have lived in Gan Haim, a moshav near Kfar Saba established in 1948. "It's great: We live a country lifestyle right next to a city." Daniella's parents returned to Israel a few years ago and they also live in Gan Haim.
"I'm not bad, considering I work and live in a largely English-speaking environment," says Grant. Daniella is a fluent Hebrew speaker.
"We are more spiritual than religious. We are part of the human race."
Grant: "I am an Anglo-Israeli." Daniella: "Although I was born in Israel, I have been strongly 'Anglo-cized.' My parents are British, and English was always my mother tongue. Having lived most of my life away from here, I really understand how important Israel is as a home for us."
Due to their cosmopolitan background, the Crankshaws have a wide circle of friends that encompass all nationalities: British, American, Guatemalan, French and Israeli, although their close friends tend to be South African. "We have a common history and that creates a strong bond," says Grant.
"For Smoke and Mirrors, a dozen people had to rehearse at one time in a small apartment," says Daniella. "We are always faced with the same problem. Multilingual theater, but more specifically English theater, needs a creative home. Grant and I dream of establishing a multilingual, multicultural theater campus which will combine theater with a performing arts education center. The center will incorporate all aspects of education in the performing arts: singing, dancing, improvisation, photography, directing and theater crafts.
"There are many professional English-speaking actors in Israel who are frustrated because their Hebrew isn't fluent enough for them to practice their craft in a professional environment. We want to provide them with a permanent location where they can expand their skills and work in their profession."
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