Breaking new ground, at will

TA’s Stage Workshop Center to open with new projects, including Dancers Studio and Pre-Premiere Club.

art 311 (photo credit: (Courtesy of Yanai Yehiel))
art 311
(photo credit: (Courtesy of Yanai Yehiel))
The new Stage Workshop Center season has just kicked off and, as center founder Rivi Feldmesser-Yaron notes, there is ne’er a dull moment to be had anywhere in the program.
The center was established in 2002 and is located on Salame Street in south Tel Aviv. Throughout its existence to date the center has striven to break new ground in all areas of the performing arts, including theater, film and TV acting, dance, screenwriting and playwriting, puppeteering and music, as well as the plastic arts.
The coming year will see the center host a wide range of cutting-edge art events and activities based on unconventional teaching and practical methods. All of the activities are designed for professionals in the various fields, while some are also open to the public and will provide audiences with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how performing artists do their business.
The Dancer Studio, for example, comprises a series of intimate discussions with a bunch of top choreographers taking part in interviews based on set questions, but with an interviewer of their choice. The interviewees include such stellar dance professionals as Ohad Naharin and Sharon Eyal from the Batsheva Dance Company, Yasmin Goddar and Arkadi Zaides, and will no doubt shed some light on what goes into putting a modern dance show together.
“The center is a sort of exploration facility for the professional community, but it also delivers art products which are open to the public,” explains Feldmesser-Yaron, adding that the center offers something that artists cannot find anywhere else.
“I think this is the only center of its type in the whole world. The content provided is unique, and simply does not exist in the market, anywhere. This is not an advanced post-school training facility. The content we offer is the result of very serious thought and analysis of what the art sector has to offer, and what is missing.”
The center may be unique, but Feldmesser-Yaron admits she got some of her ideas from other professional facilities abroad.
“There’s the Actors Studio in London, but that is only for actors, and there’s the International Workshop Festival for professionals in London. I stole a bit from different places and put the center together. The center works all through the year, not as a one-time thing.”
Art is of course, by definition, a creative field and the center endeavors to stay ahead of the crowd.
“There are new things and developments at the center every year,” states Feldmesser-Yaron. “We are always opening new channels of study and exploration, based on analysis and understanding of what went on in the previous year. We are always accumulating experience and know-how, and if we feel there is any area that hasn’t been addressed we get on with it.”
THE CONSTANT search for new avenues of artistic expression also means that the center steers clear of ideas it feels have run their course.
“If we see that we have exhausted some topic we don’t continue with it. We move on.”
The strength of the center, and the new season, lies in the quality of the teachers and workshop moderators.
“We have our Actors Studio, which is run by [veteran actors-directors] Oded Kotler and Amnon Meskin and is based on life ambition – the acting roles which the workshop participants dream of playing. This is a completely professional forum of actors and, by the way, all the people who run the workshops do so on a voluntary basis.”
The latter spirit certainly helps with the center’s finances, but Feldmesser- Yaron says that the facility is not exactly awash with hard cash.
“The participants pay fees to take part in our activities but that only covers half of our outgoings,” she says. The problem, it seems, is of a pigeonhole nature.
“I have to wait until December 31 each year to see how much I am going to get from the Ministry of Culture, which makes it very difficult to plan the year. We don’t fit any of the ministry’s defined categories for funding because we are unique, so, from the point of view of the official funding bodies, we don’t exist. We have premises but, you know, professional success doesn’t always go hand in hand with financial success. We were lucky to get support from the Bracha Foundation for the first five years, otherwise I don’t see how we could have got the thing going.”
As the center is now going into its 10th year, someone somewhere must be doing something right.
Financial straits or no, the center keeps churning out frontier-pushing activities, while helping professionals to get their stuff out there. On March 5 Yehezkel Lazarov will oversee the Pre-premiere Club, at which theater artists will present previews of their works in progress to theater managers, directors and the public, after having worked on them with Lazarov. Elsewhere in the center schedule, actress-comedienne-singer Yarden Bar Kochba will run the Play By the Book activity, and will work with actors on turning new Israeli books into stage performances. This year Bar Kochba’s group will perform a production based on Eldad Cohen’s new book Sefer Hamanginot Hakechulot (The Blue Tune Book), which will take place on March 10.
The center also cultivates playwriting, through a four-prong program, leading to stage productions of plays written at the center’s playwriting school in conjunction with Beit Lesson Theater in Tel Aviv.
“I believe that artists should receive decent pay for their work, and that the establishment should respect their work,” says Feldmesser-Yaron.
“I would like to see that happen one day.”
For more information about the Stage Workshop Center: (03) 624-1546, [email protected] and