The Clarice presents short stories by Israeli writer adapted into PuppetCinema

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By Katherine Brzozowski
For Mitzpeh
@katbrzoz29

The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv presented “Suddenly”– an adaptation of stories written by Etgar Keret that used video, puppets, and actors to tell a story presented in Hebrew with English subtitles — Friday and Saturday night at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

The overarching plot of “Suddenly” tells a story of a writer who is held at gunpoint by three characters who demand that the writer tell them a story in their search for solace, or they’ll kill him.

“My character is the one who needs the story to feel alive,” said actor Yuval Segal whose character held the writer at gunpoint. “[My character] needs to feel something, it doesn’t matter if it’s bad or happy, [my character] needs to feel something because without stories we die, we are emotionless.”

Another character holding the writer hostage needs the story to not feel alone, because he keeps losing people in his life, Segal said, and another character just wants to know how to use and tell stories. Eventually, Segal said, the “monsters kill the master” because the characters learn how to tell stories and they trap the writer inside of his own stories.

The director, Zvi Sahar, was invited to teach the PuppetCinema language at this university in 2016 as part of the Visiting Artist program of the Schusterman Foundation. According to the director’s notes, Etgar Keret was an obvious choice for the course Sahar would teach at this university.

Sahar said he looked for course material that focused on fantasy, human sensitivity and realistic simplicity and Keret’s writing would give American students a way to learn about Israeli literature and culture and connect to stories on the universal human level.

Keret, an award winning author born in Ramat Gan in 1967, has published books in more than 40 languages. His work has been published in The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Paris Review and Zoetrope.

Sahar’s course focused on Keret’s book of short stories, “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door” which Sahar said would connect the stories to a whole performance. Sahar said he worked on the adaptation with his colleague Oded Littman and began creating visual pieces of the show at The Clarice and this university’s school of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies.

The visual aspects of the show combined puppetry, video, live storytelling, and an English translation of Keret’s story.

“Like walking down a street where our attention is split between store windows, phone calls to someone, the crosswalk, the sidewalk and the sky – I like to create a complex picture on the stage with independent and equal focus centers,” Sahar said.

The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv performed “Suddenly” Friday and Saturday at the Kogod Theatre in The Clarice. Katherine Brzozowski/Mitzpeh.

“You see the scene, you see how he builds it and it’s filmed at a certain angle so there’s cinematography in addition to live storytelling and everything is just woven together in this beautiful way,” said sophomore dance and information science major Sydney Lemelin.

Lemelin said a lot is uncovered just in the layers of the story and that the director showed the story using visuals and that parallels can be drawn from the story to the real world.

“There’s puppets, and then there’s the people, and there’s the vocal storytelling and the film and life is like that. There’s so many layers and there’s different things that are happening at the same time,” she said.

As part of the audience you have to split your focus between all of the stories that are being told on the stage through the different visual mediums and life is like that too, Lemelin said. It’s easy to think that as a single person that you’re the only one telling the story, but everyone is just as complex as you are.

Shawnee Johnson, a senior sociology major, said the performance was interesting because of how they told the story. She said it really demonstrated the importance of telling everyone’s story, from multiple angles.

“The story is the thing that takes us away,” said Sahar. “When I say story I’m not talking about plot, I mean [something like] the story of earth. It’s not something that you can break down into a specific action…[stories are] how each one of us human beings experiences life.”

The next performances of “Suddenly” by The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York City starting Wednesday Dec. 6 through 9.

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