Annual Report – Acco Festival 2005

The 26th Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre concluded on Friday, October 21, 2005. Festival attendance during its four days was estimated by the police at over 200,000 – comparable to the turnout in recent years.
Over 80% of the tickets to scheduled performances were sold, with advance ticket sales accounting for 30% of the total. For “prime time” audience hours of 11:00 to 22:00, nearly 100% attendance was achieved.
A policy of discounting tickets, primarily for the younger generation, proved successful: approximately 55% of the tickets were sold to young adults, including students in dramatic arts programs and colleges.

The visitors who attended the festival came from all over Israel and abroad to view dozens of varied performances and events. Their presence and enthusiastic response demonstrated yet again the significance of the Acco Festival as one of Israel’s most important and esteemed artistic events.
The artistic program, under the direction of Daniella Michaeli, was characterized as in years past by its broad multidisciplinary approach, exploring the limits of theatre and the encounter between veteran and young creative artists taking part in the Festival, some of the latter being newcomers to the festival framework.

During the Festival’s four days, 40 productions were staged in a total of 250 performances. Among these were:

  • nine original shows having their premier performances and participating in a competition;
  • four guest shows from the USA, Britain, Germany, and Italy;
  • the Zik troupe, that originated in Acco 20 years ago, offered a seashore performance of “Esrim” (Twenty) in memory of their late member, Udi Even;
  • Regional theatre troupes were invited to stage their offerings: three productions of the Acco Theatre Center; and two productions of the Shlomi Center for Alternative Theatre.

The streets and open air stage offered a wealth of sights and sounds, with featured activities (described below): the KABIKURA Jewish-Arab street theatre workshop, and the ENCOUNTERS musical stage of the Coexistence Area.
Street theatre performances, an Acco Festival tradition, added this year for the first time a collaboration with the Haifa Children’s Theatre Festival and the Bat Yam Street Theatre Festival. Shows of all kinds abounded in the festival spaces and on the beach, including acrobatics, music, dance, clowning and more.

Special events included a day-long symposium, “The Alternative Voyage,” in memory of theatre critic and scholar Shosh Avigal, and an encounter with former Acco Theatre Center artistic director Dudi Ma’ayan, a recipient of this year’s Acco Festival Notable award.
The plastic arts were represented by the suspended sculptures project of the Festival’s Artist-In-Residence, Ofra Zimbalista.

Student productions incorporated into the festival were the Seminar ha-Kibbutzim exhibit of set design models for Oedipus Rex constructed for Acco Festival spaces; end-of-year projects by students of the nearby Shlomi Center, and the inauguration of “Building Nine” a new school for puppetry and visual theatre at the College of the Western Galilee, situated in Acco.

The Festival’s opening event included a song performance by pupils of the Acco ORT Jewish-Arab school; sand artist Yevgeny Sverdlov depicting Acco for display in wide screen format; Arab vocalist and songwriter Amal Murkus; and Israeli pop songstress Rita providing the finale.
(Support for the opening performance was provided by the European Union and the Jewish Agency for Israel.)

In the international dimension of cooperation and cultural exchange, a delegation of 60 ambassadors and cultural attaches from 25 countries paid a special visit during which they took part in the dynamic ambience of the Festival with its shows, exhibits, and open-air scenes. The delegation particularly viewed the performance of the KABIKURA youth street theatre project and the multicultural ENCOUNTERS: Musical Stage of the Coexistence Area.

Recognition as “Notable of the Acco Festival” was granted this year, in a ceremony at the opening event, to key figures in the Festival’s history: creator-artist Dudu Ma’ayan, former Acco mayor Dr. Shmaryahu Biran, and the late Shai Levy of the Old Acre Development Corporation.

The Acco Festival Prize, totaling 30,000 NIS, was divided between two shows: “Schmetterling” and “Prumot” (The Unraveled). The America-Israel Foundation Prize of 25,000 for the most promising creative artist was awarded to the playwright Yaakov Eyali
.
An additional award, for the “Producer of the Best Show,” went to Inbal Ratzon, with Honorable Mention to producer Gadi Elfassi.

The International Center for the Performing Arts awarded grants to two outstanding actors: Ranin Basharat and Dudi Barashi.

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Albert Ben-Shloosh
General Director and Principal Producer