Dancing against the stream

Tmuna Theater’s annual A-Genre Festival explores the personal, the political and everything in between.

NADAV BOSSEM’S ‘Things I found in Mother’s Closet.’ (Eyal Tager) (photo credit: EYAL TAGER)
NADAV BOSSEM’S ‘Things I found in Mother’s Closet.’ (Eyal Tager)
(photo credit: EYAL TAGER)
We are constantly being asked to define ourselves. We are required to check off little boxes that detail our gender, nationality, ethnicity, family status, age, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. While filling out a form, have you ever found your pen hovering over the “other” box? What does it mean to align oneself with “other”? What implications does otherness have?
In Nitzan Cohen’s eyes, the future lies somewhere between those clear black lines. The writer, director, performer and newly appointed artistic director of Tmuna Theater sees categorization as something of the past. And, as such, it is fitting that his first major project in his new position is the A Genre Festival.
“In my approach,” he says, “genres are vanishing.”
The festival, which will take place over this weekend, will bring multidisciplinary fringe performances together under the umbrella of the subject “Home Sweet Home.” All told, 14 new pieces will hit the stage for the first time as part of this program. The roster includes works by Oded Lifshitz, Ma’ayan Cohen Marciano, Yuval Meskin and Leslie Granot, Nofar Sela, Shimrit Malul and Iris Mualem, Ayelet Ben-Zvi, Nadav Bossem, Noga Golan and others.
“This is my first time directing the festival but I have attended it many times in the past,” explains Cohen. “Yair Vardi [former artistic director of Tmuna Theater] initiated this festival because he understood that there are things that can’t be fit into the genres. It’s the place that things are going to, the places where we check the gaps between things. A Genre deals with genre, it’s not an empty space. The festival approaches the idea that we are relating to a specific genre and departing from it, maybe even creating a new genre, but definitely creating something new. I think that’s where things need to go, to a place without categories, that is where the most interesting things are happening.”
When Cohen sent out the call for applications for A Genre, he included the theme of home. The artists were asked to consider; when our planet, our countries, our cities and states are in crisis, what happens to our home? What kind of longing do we have for home as the world around us heats up, is torn apart and trembles beneath us?
“To look at something so sweet and familiar in the context of the state of the world today, that gap, that’s what I looked for in the pieces, not necessarily the political world but in each creator’s life.”
The artists chosen to participate hail from many walks of life and fields of interest. Their works form an eclectic and unique whole.
“I’ve gotten to know the artists through the process. It has been incredible to see their ideas go from ideas to realities, to see things come to life and to discover different layers of each work. The most challenging [thing is] to move on a thin line of it being a whole but eclectic. When I work on a production, I control the big picture. Here, there are many pieces. It’s very challenging to give each work its rightful place, to give the audience the right perspective and to let the artists feel good about what they have accomplished. It is very important for me to give each artist the breathing room they need.”
As part of the broadening of conceptions, many of the pieces in A Genre will reconceive the notion of audience and performer. Viewers who enjoy laying low in the darkened hall may find themselves invited on stage.
“For the audience, it’s not about sitting and receiving the product, [but] rather being an active member. The audience is also part of the experience.They are partners to this thing. Many of the pieces are dependent on the audience in that the interaction is the piece itself. I think it takes the audience out of its comfort zone. Genre is a comfortable place and this forces them out of that place,” says Cohen.
The A Genre Festival will take place at Tmuna Theater on April 27, 28 and 29. For more information, visit www.tmu-na.org.il.