Golden Delicious offers audiences across Israel and abroad object theater with a difference.
Love, hate, vengeance, lust and sex — all the ingredients for a tantalizing stage production — conveyed by actors using nothing more than fruit, knives and a chopping board?
That’s the premise behind “Jonathan,” an object theater show its co-creator calls “a wild, cinematic piece” about the journey of self-discovery of a green apple born to red parent apples.
“Jonathan” is one of two shows in the repertoire of the Israeli ensemble Golden Delicious. The other is “Blue Table,” featuring scenarios from the life of a giant squid, wild swan, blue whale and garden snail, all portrayed by various manipulated bags.
But don’t take the kids to these adult-themed shows. In fact, Golden Delicious had a 10 pm slot when its English premier appeared at the International Festival of Puppet Theater at Jerusalem’s Train Theater in August.
In Tel Aviv, Golden Delicious has been entertaining adults for the past seven months at the alternative Clipa Theater.
“We also do shows at private parties and give object theater workshops in Jerusalem-area high schools and at Shenkar [College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv],” says co-founder Ari Teperberg, 22. “And we will perform the English version of the show as part of a student festival at a small theater in Berlin in October.”
“Jonathan” and “Blue Table” were born out of an alliance between Teperberg and Inbal Yomtovian, 28, a pastry-chef-turned-puppeteer. The two met in a puppetry course at the School of Visual Theater, a small Jerusalem institution that Teperberg calls “one of most interesting places for experimental theater in Israel.”
With the guidance of puppeteers Roni Nelken-Mosenson and Amit Drori, they created their two shows and took them on the road in 2009.
The magic of finding life in objects
Object theater, Teperberg explains to ISRAEL21c, is a puppetry sub-genre that originated in Belgium about 50 years ago. The shows are characteristically quick and comic. Ready-made objects take the place of puppets, and the human manipulators are “a crucial presence on stage,” unlike in classic puppetry.
“The second I realized the magic of finding the life in objects, I felt that I was in the right place,” Yomtovian tells ISRAEL21c. “Everything we see around us has a face and a character, and it’s the easiest thing to find it.”
And what do audiences get out of it?
“The real pleasure of watching object theater is that it’s an invitation to imagine together, like children taking something and starting to play,” she says. “Once they agree on the imaginary scene they are in, it grows much bigger than the scene itself. It’s only the objects and us, so if you agree to play the game with us you’ll have fun.”
“We’re both students of visual theater, where materials are a basic inspiration,” adds Teperberg. “Using objects and materials has a very playful aspect. When we rehearse, we just play with the objects and see what they can bring.”
Using objects with a suggestive culture of their own, such as apples connoting the story of Adam and Eve, brings an extra subtlety to discerning viewers without any need to point it out.
“People like to be able to recognize something once they know the game, and it’s really satisfying,” says Yomtovian, who also works as a puppeteer with Israel’s Zik Group, an artistic company whose performances integrate sculpture with actions and original music.
“Both pieces are very inspired by American pop culture,” says Teperberg. “‘Blue Table’ was inspired by National Geographic nature films.”
However, audiences see an Israeli aspect in them even if it wasn’t intended by the creators. “The first time we performed ‘Jonathan’ abroad, they asked us how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspired us, since ‘Jonathan’ is very much about race and color,” says Teperberg. “We didn’t intend to comment on this, but for us [that conflict] is something very basic.”
Finding appropriate venues for the minimalist Golden Delicious productions is difficult. “We want to continue performing in Israel, but it’s hard to find audiences for experimental new theater,” says Tepeberg. “And we really want to perform in Jerusalem. We rehearse in Jerusalem, but it’s difficult to find a place to perform that is for adults” since the Train Theater normally caters to children. Other venues, such as the Khan or Jerusalem theaters, are simply too large.
In the meantime, using only finances generated by their workshops, Teperberg and Yomtovian are working on a new piece and hope to get a gig at next summer’s annual festival at the Israel Puppet Center in Holon.