Lights, camera...Actors Studio

To hone the local theatrical profession, actors Oded Kotler and Amnon Meskin are running a workshop in TA.

‘Like a musician practices scales and the dancer does exercises, there has to be a framework for professional actors in Israel to practice their craft,” says distinguished actor Oded Kotler who, along with Amnon Meskin, recently began running a weekly workshop for professional actors at Stage- Center International Theater Workshop in Tel Aviv.
Stage-Center, known in Hebrew as Sadnot Habama, was established in 2002 by Rivi Feldmesser-Yaron as a laboratory for artists of different professions to provide a creative environment outside the mainstream institutions.
Kotler, the first Israeli actor to win the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival – for the film Three Days and a Child in 1967 – studied at the original Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg in New York. Along with fellow actor Meskin, Kotler had long dreamed of bringing the goals and atmosphere of the Actors Studio to Israel.
“I went there to observe in the 1960s. I went to see how the professional actors put away the capes and crowns and make themselves vulnerable,” recalls Kotler. “I saw Paul Newman do the opening monologue of The Taming of the Shrew. He did the monologue, but even though he was such an established actor, he couldn’t start from fear and emotion. He did the scene slowly. It was very touching and emotional.”
While the quality of acting in both theater and film has been on the rise in Israel in recent years, Kotler and Feldmesser- Yaron feel that something can get lost in the professionalism.
“You get stuck in conventions. People stagnate sometimes. I felt there needed to be a place to let professional actors refresh themselves, almost like a beit midrash for actors,” says Kotler.
“In Israel we have a specific problem. To make a gross generalization, we have trouble being vulnerable, wounded and sensitive. When an actor is working on a role for a play or a film, he will work for a couple of months to produce something specific. But here, at our own Actors Studio, we work to show different feelings, different emotions to show much more than what is on the surface,” he says.
“There are lots of acting schools today, and the students generalized the professionalism with which they are taught. But sometimes the soul gets lost and the actor is just a professional tool. Doing a scene is not about learning or developing, but it’s just a means to an end,” he says.
“After many years, Amnon and I told Rivi that we wanted to start our own Actors Studio here. She has a workshop where we were teaching courses. She loved the idea.We decided to do it voluntarily.”
No fees are charged for the workshops, which are held on Friday afternoons for a select group. About 300 actors auditioned and 40 were chosen.
Sponsored by the Bracha Foundation, the Tel Aviv Municipality and the Culture Ministry, the Israeli Actors Studio is not open to the public, but its founders feel that it’s just a matter of time before its influence is felt throughout the country.
Feldmesser-Yaron says, “We will see the fruits of these workshops soon. Most of the acting schools today are very target-oriented. I understand that – there are lots of festivals that need products. But not many say that we will honor the process. With Oded and Amnon, they [the participants] will find something new, something that they’re not getting anywhere else, that will allow them to express themselves on a deeper level. I wanted to see that it would happen and I gave it a place.
It’s for actors and actresses that have a vision and see acting as a search.”