All Jerusalem’s a stage

The current family-based project is called Golem, or Chrysalis, which is being performed at the pedestrian street end of Agrippas Street, at Elbocher Square.

Puppeteer Adam Yachin gets up close to one of his large creations, together with his 92-year-old puppeteer father (photo credit: ROMI BAABUA)
Puppeteer Adam Yachin gets up close to one of his large creations, together with his 92-year-old puppeteer father
(photo credit: ROMI BAABUA)
Sitting with Adam Yachin in his endearingly rumpled home near Mahaneh Yehuda, you get a sense of weighty Jerusalem lineage. Although the twinkle-eyed 49-year-old puppeteer and doll maker can’t quite compete with the likes of those who trace their Jerusalem roots back to the late 15th-century expulsion from Spain, he is a genuine fourth-generation Jerusalemite.
Much of the Yachin family – Adam has seven siblings – live in the same neighborhood, and even in the same two-story family complex.
Yachin has a rich CV in the arts, taking in theater and puppeteering, and says that much of that comes through his genes. “When I do a show I work with my father and mother” he says with a smile of his 92- and 83-year-young parents. “That’s wonderful for me.”
The current family-based project is called Golem, or Chrysalis, which is being performed at the pedestrian street end of Agrippas Street, at Elbocher Square. It is a quintessentially appealing work that can be – and is being – appreciated by one and all, of all ages.
Yachin, together with a couple of brothers and a bunch of kids and adults, has been performing Golem as part of the Jerusalem late summer Elbocher Day outdoor cultural and arts events sponsored by the Municipality of Jerusalem, and Eden, the Jerusalem Center Development Company (JDA). There are two more days of the program remaining, with more fun lined up for Monday (4 p.m.-8 p.m.) and Friday (12 noon-3 p.m.).
The entertainment program has an ulterior motive.
“We want to connect [Elbocher Square] with life in the neighborhood, and the process of renewal that is taking place in the center of the city,” notes JDA artistic director Ido Levitt. “We hope that in addition to the market, another connection [is made] between the Nachlaot neighborhood, with its community and artists, and the center of town.”
The Yachin family is certainly doing its bit to inject some positive energy to the area, while keeping members of the public happily entertained. Golem features an enormous delightfully expressive puppet operated by three people, a bunch of fantastical birdlike characters with masks and wings created by the Yachins, as well as a musician lineup, and Yachin getting up to some pretty nimble flight-like antics himself. It is a charming work.
Yachin brings an abundance of skills, talent and experience to the performance, although as a youngster he set his sights on a very different bread-winning path.
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a vet, but I realized I didn’t want to intervene in matters of life and death so much, so I thought of becoming a zoologist.” That dream also quickly dissipated, and it dawned on the youth that instead of tending to, or studying, animals, he could just as well become one. “That’s when I got into theater,” he notes. “I could be a horse or a bird. That’s what I do in yesterday’s show [on Agrippas Street]. I flew!” Yachin exclaims with a chuckle.
Once he’d set his sights on the acting business, Yachin dove into it head first. “I studied with [celebrated French actor, mime and acting instructor] Jacques Lecoq. I also worked with [Parisian avant-garde stage ensemble] Le Théâtre du Soleil.”
Illustrious surroundings notwithstanding, Yachin felt a bit like a square pin in a round hole.
“I left after a year,” he recalls. “I didn’t quite fit in. I never really completed anything. Actually, I did finish the full program at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School” in Talpiot.
The staccato nature of Yachin’s educational path was not the result of a lack of trying. It was more down to his free roaming spirit. “They all said I did wonderful things, but that I didn’t do anything according to the syllabus,” he says. “They said they wanted students who worked with their method. That didn’t work for me. My method is to look for a method,” he adds with a laugh.
And so Yachin set out on his own path to discovery, a road he says he travels to this day.
“I teach puppet theater in Holon, and I tell my students that they should think of things they’d like to do. I tell them I have no idea how they will work out, and I am learning just like them. The only difference is that I get paid, and they pay,” he laughs. “I tell them to think up a project that I don’t know how, or even if, it’ll work out. Every year it’s the same, and every year we have great fun and do great things. The whole thing with learning is to try to achieve something unknown. To say you don’t know how to do it, but that you will know.”
For Yachin, the journey is just as important as the ultimate objective, and that can mean a change or two of tack. “You can start out wanting to make a puppet that weighs 10 tons, but it is possible that in the middle, you come to realize that a 10-kilo puppet is fine too. You should always reserve the right to make mistakes, and to change direction. That’s part of the learning process.
That’s success too.”
Yachin is also in the business of making dreams come true, and using the medium of theater to express yourself. One of his current vehicles of artistic endeavor is a work called “The Chrysalis in Talpiot,” which also conveys a green message. “We are all wrapped in newspaper. I use a lot of waste material, and instead of throwing it away and causing even more pollution, we put it to good use.”
Yachin may be the helmsman, but he allows his shipmates plenty of room for personal maneuver.
“We were putting this [Talpiot] show together and there was a woman, a kindergarten teacher, who said that all her life she had followed rules laid down by others, and that she always wanted to be a queen on stage.” Enough said. The work in progress was recalibrated to accommodate the woman’s desire. “We all have to feel comfortable on stage, and that what we do reflects who we are.
That’s the only way to do proper theater,” says Yachin. Naturally, the Talpiot work features plenty of giant-sized figures, some over four meters high.
As a proud veteran Jerusalemite, Yachin is keen to promote one of the major motives behind the Elbocher event. “Elbocher Square is just off Agrippas Street, but not many people know about. It’s a great spot with a sort of amphitheater, and more people should go there and use it. This is a wonderful part of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is a wonderful city. There’s no place like Jerusalem.”
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