Theater Festival: Better than 'Cats'

The 29th Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater hopes to rededicate its mission this Hanukka with just the miracle of good faith on its side.

acre festival 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Bashor )
acre festival 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Bashor )
Hanukka is a holiday of rededication. Our Maccabi ancestors, despite their meager 70-year run, rededicated the Jerusalem temple with their miracle 8-in-1 vessel of oil. The 29th Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater hopes to rededicate its mission with just the miracle of good faith on its side. Meant to have taken place, like every year, this past Succot, the festival was cancelled when the riots in Acre broke out. The decision to cancel, made while the actors were just starting to rehearse in their designated performance spaces, was met with numerous objections originating from within the art community. Artists, it seemed, did not want to give in to violence, bless their souls. Shimon Lankri, Acre's mayor, said, "In light of the anger and insult among the residents of the town, it would be pointless to hold the festival. This is not a time to be festive." Now, two months later, Lankri has decided that the time to be festive has come again. The festival's art director, Daniela Michaeli, concurs, "After the riots we asked the performers whether they wanted to wait for the festival or present their shows somewhere else. They chose to wait. There is an artistic importance to Acre. They have special spaces for their shows." Michaeli notes that the artists also wanted to keep the competition aspect, adding, "I think it's a testament as to whom the festival belongs." As usual, the festival is composed of two parts. Street theater comprises the first component and is open to the public-at-large. Set to take place indoors due to fear of rain (usually street theater is held outdoors, on the street), these shows encompass and mix different elements such as video art, circus acts, puppeteering and more. Despite potential precipitation there are still a few special shows planned for the great, urban outdoors including Time Out - a parade of cheerleaders in support of the IDF (also seen at this past summer's Bat Yam Street Theater Festival) and To Die For - a satirical cabaret about death. The second component is the competition, in which nine shows make their debut. Michaeli says, "These shows were selected because they are different in regards to their language, topic and authenticity. Those selected enjoy the attention of our art committee, which offered each performance guidance and feedback." One such show is Donkey Burial, the story of a dying man making all the arrangements for his funeral. "This show depicts a journey that includes an Indian dance, visual art and the breaking down of taboos," says Michaeli. Other shows are: Rounds Per Minute, which has no actors, but rather explores the relationship between music, light and various objects; Henya Petelman, which tells the story of a Hebrew worker who takes her own life ("In light of Israel's 60th anniversary, we encouraged plays dealing with Israeli myths," says Michaeli.); and, 22 Pictures and Olive Harvest, both about generational gaps, with the former depicting a Jewish family and the latter an Arab family. Additional events and happenings include a group of Jewish-Arab children on stilts who will greet the visitors each evening, a youth area that offers meditation and laughter workshops and a young artists stage, a nightly Cabaret, and much more. "In our ratings-based culture, it is our duty and responsibility to create alternative art that should be measured only by its merit," says Michaeli. "As artists and consumers of art, we should be independent but not separatists. We must connect between the city and the festival. Culture always needs to develop. This is the importance of the festival." The festival takes place from Dec. 22-25, visit for more information.