Metrotainment: A moving performance

Forty Nissan Nativ alumni will take part in a fund-raiser to help the acting school move into a permanent home after nearly 50 years.

Nissan Nativ theater 521 (photo credit: Itzik Biran)
Nissan Nativ theater 521
(photo credit: Itzik Biran)
All the world may be a stage, but that doesn’t mean that the thespian business rules the financial roost. That is a cold reality of which many of our arts professionals are often painfully aware, even those who have been in the business a long time. The Nissan Nativ Acting Studio has certainly been around quite a while, 49 years to be precise, but longevity has not made life any easier.
The Tel Aviv branch of the school – there is also a teaching facility in Jerusalem – occupies a building on Herzl Street, but the lease will expire within the next 12 months. Not wanting to lose one of the city’s most prestigious arts educational establishments, the Tel Aviv Municipality came up with alternative premises which, if all goes well, will mean that after almost half a century, the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio will have a permanent home of its own.
“If” is the key word here, as support notwithstanding, there is a financial mountain to climb before Michael Warshaviak, the acting studio’s principal, can start to consider how to furnish the school, let alone his new office.
“The Tel Aviv Municipality has been very generous, but we need a lot more funding,” says Warshaviak, adding that there have been other generous souls willing to help out as well.
“We recently discovered that in order to renovate the building and adapt it for our use, we need around NIS 23 million.
Besides giving us the premises, the municipality has allocated around NIS 7.5m. for the work. Then we found a generous American foundation, the Alexander Grass Foundation, which donated $3m. At this stage, the Culture Ministry has allocated NIS 1m., and we thought we’d have to find another NIS 2m. for the building work, but we just found out we’re going to need NIS 3m. instead.”
That still leaves quite a hefty sum to produce which, due to the school’s insistence on going for quality rather than quantity, will not come from tuition fees. The studio takes in no more than 17 students a year over the three-year program, with each student paying NIS 15,000 per annum.
“We actually increased that from 15 students, but I want to offer them top-grade education and as individual attention as possible,” says Warshaviak.
“Anyway, there is no point in swamping our small theatrical community with large numbers of graduates.”
Warshaviak and his colleagues are kick-starting the rest of the fund-raising drive with a theatrical show, “All-Stars Alter- Nativ,” at Tzavta in Tel Aviv on February 10 at 2:30 p.m.
The roll call of graduates of the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio makes for impressive reading, and many have become the pillars of our theatrical community. Around 40 of the school’s alumni will take part in the Tzavta show. The roster includes some of the biggest names in the thespian sector of the entertainment industry, such as veteran actors Moshe Ivgi, Keren Mor and Rami Hoiberger, and some of the younger crop like Nora Fisher, Anael Blumenthal and Dana Lerer.
The show will be something of a throwback to some of the best in-house work the studio has produced over the years.
“We have this item we call ‘Nissan Alter-Nativ,’ which we call a valve for releasing pressure,” explains Warshaviak, “and the actors will perform Nissan Alter-Nativ pieces at Tzavta from many years of the school.”
Nissan Alter-Nativ, it seems, is not for the faint-hearted. “All our students are very talented, but when they come to the studio we analyze all their skills and everything about acting. That’s very hard. You know, it’s like asking a millipede what happens with leg number 81 when it’s moving leg number 432. It just stops dead in its tracks because it becomes confused.”
The school principal says the same thing happens when you ask acting students to take a clinical look at their skills.
“The students put a show together on their own. They write the script and do the costumes and everything else – we’re talking about all the students from all the three years in the school – and the teachers go along to see it for the first time when it’s ready. Sometimes it doesn’t work too well, and other times you get fantastic results.”
Warshaviak is looking to harness some of the better outcomes of the Nissan Alter-Nativ program to generate some cash for the renovations bill.
“One thing we do very well is train actors,” he continues. “We’re not good at fund-raising or real-estate speculating, so we are trying to use the artistic assets we have to find the funds we need for the new premises, step by step. We don’t expect the public to give us large sums, but we’ll be happy if people buy tickets for the Tzavta event for NIS 100 or NIS 200 or maybe even more.”
Judging by the list of entertainers lined up for next Friday’s show, Warshaviak is certainly not short of available talent to bring the patrons in, and he is hopeful that the event will bring in a tidy additional sum.
“I’d like the show to generate several tens of thousands of shekels and, hopefully, the Culture Ministry will see we are serious and that things are moving in the right direction and will give us a bit more. Maybe everyone will give a bit more and then the almost impossible will happen and the thing we have been trying to achieve for so long – to have a permanent home of our own – will happen.
Unfortunately, Nissan did not live to see it happen.”
In fact, the eponymous founder of the school, who died in 2008, knew something was in the offing. “Just three days before he died, we heard that the municipality was going to give us a building,” Warshaviak recalls. “I’m just sorry he is no longer with us.”
Warshaviak chalked up a lot of time by Nativ’s side, both as a student and later as his partner in the school office. “We worked side by side for 22 years,” says the principal, “and he was a fantastic teacher. He was the first modern educator in the country.”
By “educator” Warshaviak means a teaching professional in the wider, life-enriching sense of the word. “He taught us to think big, to take responsibility for what we do, to go deeply into our work and never to blame others for our failures. He also taught us that in order to create, we need to work together as a team.
That is a very important lesson to learn, especially in a profession that, paradoxically, involves brilliant individuals.
You can only work together as a team if you have mutual respect and faith,” he says.
Warshaviak is certainly working together with his colleagues and former students on getting the school safely ensconced in its new renovated premises in Jaffa within the year.
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