Czeching in with Clipa

The Tel Aviv-based company and Prague-based Teatr Novogo Fronta stage a joint production

Irina Andreeva faced constraints in Soviet Russia521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Irina Andreeva faced constraints in Soviet Russia521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Tel Aviv-based Clipa Theater company will join forces with Russian-born Jewish physical theater artist Irina Andreeva of the Czech-based Teatr Novogo Fronta and Greek performer Achilleas Chariskos in a new dark comedy titled With Unarmed Forces.
The play, directed by Clipa co-founder Idit Herman, is a highly energized wordless work based on the concept of object manipulation. It tells the sorry tale of a couple protected from the ravages of a war that is raging outside, while the partners engage in never-ending arguments fueled by the anguish of the death of their son on the battlefield. The sudden appearance of an army defector destroys the defenses each partner had carefully constructed to keep their sorrow under wraps, and emotional mayhem quickly erupts as they wade through a morass of human intolerance, hatred and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for reciprocal destruction.
This is the not the first time that 40-something Andreeva and the Clipa troupe have pooled their artistic skills.
“Teatr Novogo Fronta did a workshop with Clipa in Berlin and a performance in Prague, so I am excited that we are finally going to be doing something together in Israel,” says Andreeva.
She also has quite a long-standing track record with Clipa founding member Dmitry Tyulpanov, who will perform in the play.
“I have known Dmitry for more than 20 years, since the time we worked together at the Derevo Theater [in St. Petersburg, Russia],” says Andreeva. “We performed a duet in Prague several times. But we went in different directions. I went to live in Prague, and he met Idit Herman, and together they founded Clipa.”
Andreeva and Tyulpanov have had several unscheduled rendezvous over the years but until now did not have the chance to get down to a serious joint performance effort. They finally got the chance to tread the same boards when Andreeva decided it was high time she enjoyed a professional confluence with artists with whom she shared a similar scale of life experience.
“About a year ago, my manager asked me what I wanted to do in the coming year, and I told her I would like to work with someone who had a little different [theatrical] style and was the same age as me. Very often I work with young people, and I just wanted to do something with people with the same years of experience,” she explains.
The way to the current project was clear.
“My manager asked me who I knew, and I said, ‘Okay, Clipa’ because I knew Dmitry, and I saw their performances and liked their work. So we contacted them, and they said yes. That was great!” she enthuses.
Andreeva certainly shares Clipa’s envelope-pushing mind-set as indicated by, among other things, the name she chose for her company.
“Teatr Novogo Fronta means ‘new front theater’ in Russian. That’s ‘new front’ like avant-garde,” adds the Czech-based Russian performer.
Teatr Novogo Fronta addresses its area of the arts in as expansive a manner as possible. Its works range from street theater and improvised endeavor to classical theater formats.
Its productions generally feed off images and characters that tread the gray area between mysticism and abstraction, circus art and modern dance, powerfully fueled by action and improvisation and the tension amplified by the perceived ludicrous nature of human tragedy.
Andreeva experienced her fair share of repression during her early years, growing up in the artistically suffocating world of the Soviet Union.
In fact, the constraints placed on individual and artistic freedom at one stage nipped Andreeva’s incipient thespian aspirations in the bud.
“I started studying theater direction in Soviet Russia, but I stopped my studies because of the communist system of education, and for a few years I traveled around the Soviet Union and had lots of jobs,” she recalls.
While she was out and about accruing valuable life experience, changes were afoot in the local political arena.
“It was the time of perestroika [economic and political reform initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986], and I met all sorts of people who were interested in doing artistic things that were not permitted in communist Russia. We got a group together and began to experiment and perform in Russia and Germany,” she recounts.
During the Soviet era, it was not just a matter of official constraints on what could or could not be performed on stage.
“We did not have access to information about the things people were doing in other places in the outside world, so we could not learn from them,” notes Andreeva. “So when we suddenly got that access to information and the freedom to do what we wanted, we felt like we were flying. It was an exciting time.”
Since With Unarmed Forces and all her physical theater work are devoid of the spoken word, this helps the performers leapfrog any potential linguistic barriers and land mines.
“We all bring our own culture and the trappings of our culture to what we see and experience,” Andreeva observes. “It is wonderful and refreshing when you get audiences that bring something new to what we do because of their ideas and their way of thinking.
Different cultures bring in different accents.”
Andreeva says her approach to her work has changed over the years.
“To begin with, you are pure and free and have total belief in your way of thinking. But things, step by step, become more complex.”
There is, of course, a significant upside to losing one’s utopian ideals and youthful freedom.
“You discover more possibilities, you earn more money, and you keep on searching and experimenting and discovering new things. That is what we have always done at Teatr Novogo Fronta, and I believe Clipa does that, too,” she says.
Performances will take place August 1-13 at the Clipa Theater on Harakevet Street in Tel Aviv at 8:30 p.m. daily, excluding Sundays, and on Fridays at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. There will also be a show in Pardess Hanna on August 14. The final performance of the current run will take place at the Fringe Theater in Beersheba on August 15.
For tickets and more information about With Unarmed Forces: (03) 639-9090 and