Israeli one-man show festival relaunches amid mourning for its creator

Teatronetto Festival relaunches in a flurry of renewal and heartache as one of Yaakov Agmon’s final requests before his passing.

That's not how you walk on stage (photo credit: GERARD ALLON)
That's not how you walk on stage
(photo credit: GERARD ALLON)
After being canceled last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the 30th annual TheaterNetto Festival, one of the oldest theater festivals in Israel, is returning at long last – but with an element of sadness.
The festival was originally founded by Yaakov Agmon, who tragically passed away in December of last year. The festival, instead, will be run by his wife, famed Israeli actress Gila Almagor-Agmon.
“It was Agmon’s request. It was like his will and testament,” Almagor-Agmon told The Jerusalem Post. “Before he really collapsed, the CEO of Jaffa Theater and several other lawyers came to have us sign documents regarding the TheaterNetto Festival. Right before they left, he asked that they add one more line: ‘If something happens, I ask that my wife, Gila Almagor-Agmon’ – and he listed my ID number by heart – ‘take charge of TheaterNetto in my place.’”
A special tribute will be brought to the limelight of the festival in honor of Agmon, as this is the first year in which the TheaterNetto Festival is held without him. Students from the Rimon School of Music will perform a string of hits from musicals which Agmon has composed and produced throughout the years in the Jaffa Theater Plaza.
Held throughout the holiday of Passover from March 29 until April 1, the festival consists of seven one-man plays – meaning plays that have a single actor alone on stage –competing to determine which is the best of the best. Those seven were the best of some 70 plays that were submitted for consideration for the festival.
The artistic committee for the festival is made up of Almagor-Agmon, as well as the creators and actors Daniella Michaeli, Shimon Mimran and Yigal Ezrati.
One-man plays are known for allowing the actor to make direct dialogue with their audiences.
“When you perform alone, you don’t compete with anyone else but yourself,” Almagor-Agmon said. “When it’s one actor alone on stage, you sense their power. It comes with a certain sacrifice of the creator. I was in a one-woman play in the past. There’s something lonely about it, it’s true, but it’s also individualizing. I’ve been acting for 60 years, so this loneliness was an amazing change for me. It’s mine, and it’s from my own sacrifice, and I’m alone on stage, and on the way there and back I’m alone, and for me it was so good.”
The best play will win a prize of NIS 10,000 named after the late actor Nissim Azikri, given by the Tel Aviv Foundation for Literature and Art named after Yehoshua Rabinowitz.
The festival also has an audience choice award named after Tarin Shelfi, an actress who won the “Best Actress of 2019” award in her play, Move the Sun, directed by Hanan Yishai, which follows her difficult journey of battling cancer. After receiving the award, Shelfi succumbed to the illness. The prize of NIS 5,000 will be awarded by her family.
Memory Monster, another performance at the festival based on the story of Ishay Sarid and performed by Ben Yosifovich, a tour guide in Poland who shows travelers around the Nazi death camps is haunted by the various figures he encounters and battles the moral dilemmas attached.
The festival received widespread media attention last year when My Daughter is a Whore was set to be featured, but it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Performed by Neta Yashchin, the play tells the story of the culture shock of aliyah with the big wave of Russian immigration in the 1970’s – and yes, one of her daughters was a prostitute.
Michal Svironi, actress and creator of one of the plays, Carte Blanche (meaning “Blank Page”) combines plastic art with theater and creates publicly in her performance, which will be featured in the festival.
“I always looked for the overlap between theater and plastic art,” she said. “I always found ways in my own style: doll theater, theater that includes sculpting, and so on. The overlap creates some kind of disconnected performance. So the show is considerably abstract.”
She explained that for years, she had hidden the fact that she draws. Then when she turned 40, she decided she no longer wanted to keep such an inherent part of her in the dark anymore. “So I did it: I drew in front of an audience,” she said. “It was so emotional. We want to bring it to Israel and to the world. That’s more important than the award. I don’t need the recognition.”
“It’s so beautiful,” Almagor-Agmon said of Svironi’s performance. “It’s almost no words – all visual. Breathtaking.
“The performances in general are all so unique,” she concluded. “People must come and see.”
The price for a full ticket is NIS 80.
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