Birth of a genre

A mixture of comedy and raw emotion, the innovative play An Oak Tree is a two-man show in which only one actor comes to the stage with any preparation. Scheduled to be staged once in Jerusalem and once in Tel Aviv this week, it tells the story of a stage hypnotist who loses his abilities after he kills a child with his car. British playwright and actor Tim Crouch, who plays the hypnotist, won the Glasgow Herald Angel prize at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival for An Oak Tree. In his unusual play, the guest actor, played by someone new at every performance, has not seen the script and is not told where the plot is headed. A script is given to the actor as he goes on stage. He also receives directions through an earpiece, as well as straight from Crouch on stage. Crouch, the fringe piece's creator, says the actor's lack of prior knowledge about the play creates a relationship between the actor and the audience. The actor is lost on stage, not knowing where he is going or what his story is from one minute to the next. "The audience has a representative on the stage discovering the story at the same time," Crouch says. Even though the second actor has not seen the script prior to the performance, Crouch is quick to point out it is not improvisation. "It is all scripted. Every move is rehearsed without the second actor, and I direct them on stage," he says. Crouch says every performance of An Oak Tree is slightly different because of the constant change in cast. Crouch is visiting Israel for the first time as one of three British actor/teachers in a conflict-resolution seminar at Jerusalem's Gerard Behar Center sponsored by Tel Aviv based NGO Stage-Center and the British Council. Audiences are invited to watch the seminar's wrap-up performance today at 3 p.m. at Jerusalem's Gerard Behar Center. The artists will alternate as the "guest actor" in the two performances of An Oak Tree, Saturday at 9 p.m. at Gerard Behar, 11 Bezalel St., (02) 625-1139; and on Sunday at 9 p.m., Z.O.A. House, Tel Aviv, (03) 695-9341. Tickets are NIS 80.