There's always an alternative

For its 30th anniversary, the Acre Festival is working to escape the shadow of last year's riots by focusing on the city as much as the theater.

acre 248 88 (photo credit: Eyal Landesman)
acre 248 88
(photo credit: Eyal Landesman)
The Acre Festival of Alternative Theater, which will take place in and around the crusader fortress in the Old City of Acre from October 4-8, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. There are nine original plays in competition, 35 street-theater shows - including nine from abroad - productions from Japan, Italy and Germany, as well as a whole host of site-specific events "designed to put the focus solidly on Acre as the festival venue," said Acre Mayor Shimon Lankry at a recent press conference. To further this aim, the Municipality has made a house available to Acre Festival artists in the Old City where several groups, such Company D. Houdart - J. Heuclin from France, are preparing with Acre youth, like Paddocks in the Street. Lankry also stressed that, as a consequence of last year's riots, the Municipality has invested enormous effort on education and defusing tensions at every level. "We expect this year's festival to be just fine," he said. Festival artistic directors Smadar Yaron and Moni Yosef, who also head the Acre Theater Center, have been living and working in Acre for 25 years. Indeed, one of nine salutes to the anniversary revolves around The Acre Theater Center's Holocaust memoir, the seminal Arbeit Macht Frei that premiered in Acre 15 years ago. Other tributes include Israeli/Palestinian/European collaborations such as Project Acre - which involves another set of artists working in Acre for months with locals, resulting in two plays that have already been invited to France and the UK next year: Seawall and Cross Campaigns. This year, the festival also showcases veteran artists such as Moshe Malka and distinguished Palestinian playwright Francois Abou Salem, who has adapted Alfred Jarry's King Ubu to a Palestinian setting - Abu Ubu in the Meat Market. Acre Festival honorees this year are the soon-to-resign Arts and Culture Authority head Micha Yinon, a fervent festival supporter throughout the years, and former Acre mayor Israel Doron, on whose watch the Acre Festival began. This year's budget is NIS 3.6 million. The Municipality has reduced ticket prices for youth, students and soldiers to NIS 30 - and they are already on sale. And a postscript: While excavating the site to renovate the parking area, builders found a Roman aqueduct whose presence no one ever suspected. The archeologists are having a field day.