Summary Report: Acco Festival 2006

More than 250,000 visitors attended the 2006 Acco Festival.

The 27th Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre concluded on October 11, 2006. Festival attendance during its four days was estimated by the police at over 250,000.
This large crowd, who came to see dozens of stage shows and other performances from Israel and abroad, demonstrated by their presence this year too, the Acco Festival’s significance as one of the important artistic events on the original-theatre scene. The 92% capacity audience represented ticket sales that for 2006 exceeded by 20% those of the past seven years. Of the tickets offered for sale, 90% were sold, 30% in advance of opening night.
This year, the Festival included 350 performances of 45 different shows, among them: 11 competition plays, special events, street theatre, outdoor performances, and other programs from Israel and abroad.

The Opening Ceremony 2006 was held this year, as before, on the grounds of the Naval Academy, with the participation of Ophir Pines-Paz, Minister of Science, Culture, and Sports. The program included the Kolot ORT-Acco high school choral ensemble with a medley of songs on the theme of “Light,” the dancers Shay Partoush and Rona Bey, and for the finale: Mashina, the all-time popular rock band. The honorific designation “Notable of the Acco Festival” was awarded to Mr. Avner Shalev for his contribution in implementing the decision to establish the Festival in Acco and for soliciting funding sources for its existence and advancement, and to Mr. Yuval Meskin, radio presenter and theatre personage, for his work in supporting and promoting the Festival throughout many years.

Competition Entries
“Tetris” – a joint production by plastic artist Natty Shamia-Ofer and choreographer Noa Dar; “The Tale of a Lonely Man” – Ofer Amram’s story of puppets and puppeteers; “Love Box” – written and directed by Moshe Malka, a stylized piece in Zitz, a language he invented; Jaws” – by Ariel Ephraim Eshbal (whose “Nucleii” was awarded First Prize in the 2003 Acco Festival), continues to explore and enhance the theatrical medium and its boundaries; “Did you pack alone” – Yair Vardi creates a theatre of visual poetics; “Aunt Frieda” – Naomi Yoeli constructs a personal-feminine museum as the base for a multidisciplinary show combining a museum exhibition, theatrical cocktail party, and fashion show; “Rabak!” – by Yael Biagon-Citron, a medieval-style theatre piece that has the audience move from one station to the next; “The Jabalya Project” – the playwright’s attempt through docudrama to confront evidence and testimonies from the period of his military service in the First Intifada; “Verbal Wrongs” – by Abigail Gretz and directed by Lechay Bckerman, a play in the format of a Talmud lesson offering a new interpretation for a page of the Gemara; “On the Unity of the Name” – directed by Basmat Hazan, the first production of the ensemble “Ka-Heref Ayin”: a group of young observant Jews dealing with the place of the individual within the religious community; and “Gypsy Wedding” – a ensemble production set to music, written and directed by Ehab Bahus and Firas Ruby, in which an Olive Branch and a Dove must overcome obstacles that arise to prevent their wedding.

Open-air Performances and Street Theatre
This year, some twenty street theatre troupes participated in the Festival, representing a wide range of circus and clowning acts including acrobatics, masks, and parades, a Boulevard of Immigrant Artists, music, and dance.
These acts were integrated with the scenery of the Old City and spread throughout the numerous streets and spaces of the Festival grounds.

A special evening in recognition of the youth of Israel’s North was held on the Festival’s second day, highlighted by iconic rock vocalist Aviv Geffen.

In addition to the theatre competition plays, the following special events and productions were performed:
“Burning – In the Gardens”, a program of theatrical songs offered by the artist Smadar Yaaron, who also hosted an “open stage”: at the conclusion of her performance, other artists and guests were invited to the stage, with music each evening until the early morning hours. Highlighting one of the impromptu performances was the Sirocco ensemble from Acco, featuring the soloist Shimrit Ohana.

The “Encounters": Musical Stage — Coexistence Area” featured Jewish and Arab bands. A variety of ensembles were joined by musicians formerly of Acco who came from all parts of Israel for this artistic reunion.

Kabikura – the Jewish-Arab Theatre Troupe performed their work, “King Fuad II and Gili the Nerd” each evening. Joining them were students from Acco’s Manof youth village (in the framework of the Coexistence Project).

Presented on the Bustan stage: a pair of clowning comedies. The Israeli production: “Velcro,” directed by Ronen Sadis, created a crazy, funny, and astonishing world without words. The guest production from Spain, “Por de Nassos” (Fear of God), by the Nàpiens nàpiens duo, explored the connections between humor, fear, and laughter.

From Italy came a guest troupe of actors bringing to the courtyards of the Festival their street theatre show, “Arlecchino – Don Giovanni,” a masked situation comedy according to the finest tradition of the Commedia dell’Arte.

The realm of the plastic arts was represented by three works:
The special project “Released for Publication,” by Chaim Yafim Berblatt and Itay Mautner, composed of a series of documentary portraits recorded in real time, that show the feelings, expressions, and sentiments of Acco’s residents during the recent war.
The “Where’s Dana” group for their work,“Planted,” situated in the Fortress Courtyard, employed metal fixtures, grass, wood, and metal, juxtaposing the natural and the manufactured, preservation vs. development, and construction vs. destruction.
“Time, Frozen,” an installation by the artist Frida Steinberger, with objects of times past frozen in white porcelain, incorporating the works of her son Itai Steinberger, who fell in the Second Lebanon War.

The Festival presented two daylong symposiums: one a symposium in memory of Dr. Shosh Avigail: three sessions dealing with theatrical activity in the context of pedagogy, the periphery, and street theatre; the other a symposium in memory of artist and creator Mazen Gatas: two sessions dealing with theatre, community, and political commitment.

In the international aspect — collaboration and cultural exchange, with a delegation of 50 ambassadors and cultural attachés representing 25 countries were hosted for a special visit to the Acco Festival. During their day at the Festival, these honored guests viewed shows featured on the Festival program, took in open-air performances, and had a guided tour of the Old City of Acco.

Decision of the Panel of Judges, Acco Festival 2006
The judges’ decisions were rendered on October 11, 2006, the closing day of the Festival. Members of the panel: Noa Lev (chair), Dr. Dror Harari, Amir Brenner, Yossi Ben-Nun, and Ghassan Abbas.

Acco Festival 2006 — Prizes:
The 2006 Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre returns to prove again that original theatrical creation, uncompromising in taking on challenges and free from commercial dictates, is alive and well. Throughout four days of theatrical celebration, we all were granted many moments of charm and grace. We, members of the panel of judges, wish to take this opportunity to thank all those on the Festival staff, from its General Director on down to each one who undertook bearing part of the burden so that this Festival ran like clockwork, with skill and love. The task of judging the competition entries was difficult; though never easy, nevertheless, as always, the choices must be made.

The Acco Festival 2006 Andrea Bronfman Memorial Prize for Best Play, in the sum of 45,000 NIS, goes to “Aunt Frieda,” an original piece created by Naomi Yoeli in collaboration with Hadas Kalderon, Daphna Ariel, and Galia Yoeli. Above all, “Aunt Frieda” sounds an original, clear voice, with much imagination and inventiveness: alternative theatre as a unique multidisciplinary event.
Other prizes awarded this year for special achievements in various creative fields:
For the use of original materials, translating them to a stage concept, and for set design: the play “Verbal Wrongs;”
For exceptional ensemble work by a young company at the start of its career: to the actors of “On the Unity of the Name;”
For the conception and execution of a creative idea: the “Where’s Dana” group for their interface installation, “Planted.”
Honorable mentions:
For originality in spatial design and innovation in structuring performer/audience relations: Natty Shamia-Ofer and Noa Dar, creators of “Tetris;”
For extraordinary vocal creation and performance: Marina Maximilian Blumin, for the play “Rabak!”

Additional prizes awarded for the 2006 Acco Festival:

The America-Israel Cultural Foundation Prize of 25,000 NIS for Most Promising Creative Artist, to fund his upcoming creative piece, was awarded to Ofer Amram for his work, “The Tale of a Lonely Man.”
The panel of judges: Itzik Weingarten, Pablo Ariel, and Nir Turk.

Best Producer, awarded by “See Under: Production” – Production Studies for the Arts, in the sum of 3,500 NIS: Arieh Rosen, producer of the play, “Tale of a Lonely Man,” written and directed by Ofer Amram.
Honorable mention: Michal Vaaknin, producer of the play, “Rabak!,” written and directed by Yael Biagon-Citron, for the courage she displayed in “jumping into deep water.”

The International Center for Performing Arts Workshops awarded, for the fourth year, the Prize for Outstanding Actor to two actors for their work on stage in Festival productions. Grants for attending performance workshops go to:
Haya Barshinski, for her performance in “Gypsy Wedding;”
Netanela Ben-Saadon, for her performance in “On the Unity of the Name.”

From Albert Ben-Shloosh, General Director of the Acco Festival: “This year’s has been the most successful Festival since my appointment as Director. This was manifest primarily in its production and organizational aspects on the one hand, and in the quality of projects produced especially for the Festival on the other. Notable among these was the open stage in the Festival gardens that operated nightly into the wee hours.”

Daniella Michaeli, in her second year as the Acco Festival’s Artistic Director, expressed satisfaction how most of goals were met, which she had set together with the Artistic Committee following last year’s Festival. Present at the 2006 Festival were numerous, varied theatrical languages, through which the medium of theatre and the relations between audience and stage were explored. The Festival provided a stage for young talents and brought about the expression of a broad range of content.

Members of the Artistic Committee: Daniella Michaeli (chair), Hava Ortman, Lili Ben-Nachshon, Hanni Vardi, Munir Bakri, and Yuval Meskin.
The Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre is produced and directed by the Municipality of Acco in cooperation with the Old Acre Development Corp. with support from the Ministry of Science, Culture, and Sport – Department of Arts & Culture, the Municipality of Acco, the Galilee Development Authority, Mifal Hapayis National Lottery, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Beracha Foundation, the Keshet Foundation, the Karev Foundation, the Rich Foundation, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and the Ministry of Tourism.