The Mustache Theatre! Community Youth in performance

This is the poster for ‘I am Who I am’, a performance by the Mustache Theatre.

The last time I saw the community Mustache Theatre perform was during Operation Cast Lead. The performance at that time was based on authentic fears and experiences during a time when we, in this area, were experiencing constant rocket attacks, usually early morning as children boarded their school buses or in the evening when a family was home, without access to a fallout shelter. Those dreadful times bred deep fears that were compounded with every boom.

At that time, the Mustache Theatre offered a forum for kids to pen their anxieties and shape them into skits. With every rehearsal and later every performance,  this drama therapy worked its magic. Talking about fears released the pressure. “Red Alert” (Tzeva Adom) was the resultant play.

Now, two years afterwards, rocket attacks are fewer and other problems have stepped into the foreground. Last night’s performance of  “I Am Who I Am” focused on individual stories of normal everyday kids.

The Mustache Theatre

One was embarrassed because of her Russian roots. She only wanted to be like every other Israeli teenager. Another had an eating disorder. A third coped with a mother with diagnosed schizophrenia. And on it went. Each character had his or her moment to express dilemmas or pain within the environment of a youth camp.

The script, based on the participants’ stories, was edited into final form by Na’ama Goren. Direction was by Ya’acov Amsalem, himself brandishing the mustache for which the troupe was named.

Actors: Yonatan Malchi, Yonatan Segal, Ya’ara Melinski, Liron Malchi, Mor Lavie, Miri Sosnovski, Nisanit Cohen, Idan Hameiri, Shirli Vinogradov and Tom Segal are all students in Nofei Habsor Comprehensive School, ranging in age from 13 – 17.

The backing for this project comes from the heart and soul of one woman, Aliza Ben Yehuda, who works with the Eshkol Regional Council in the Youth Social Services Department. She, in her wisdom, saw that theatre was an immediate remedy for alienation during troubled times, and through her efforts, the theatre group was created ten years ago and has been nurtured ever since by other members of the Youth Social Services branch.

After the performance, the  participants offered thanks to all of the adults who gave them a hand, to one of their fellow actors, Dvir, who acted as Assistant Director.

The show was enthusiastic, clearly a labour of love for all involved. This troupe generally performs in national festivals throughout Israel and I expect they will be on the road with the show in the near future.

– Judih, talking now for Let My People Know

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The Mustache Theatre! “Tzeva Adom” (Red Alert)

Tzeva Adom!

"Tzeva Adom" Red Alert!

"Tzeva Adom" Red Alert!

What can a bunch of kids do when the cry of ‘Tzeva Adom’ becomes part of the vernacular? What can a bunch of creative kids, who belong to the Mustache Theatre Group, do when they’re looking for a subject for their latest stage performance? What can these same kids do when their youth club is the target of a qassam and they need to find the strength to go on?

They can write a play! And that’s how “Tzeva Adom” came into being. Melany Rosemberg, a member of the group for a few years, told me her experiences.

Judih: Can you tell me about your experiences with Tzeva Adom?

Melany: “I live on a kibbutz, Gevulot, which so far hasn’t had any qassams, (knock on wood) but I deeply felt the fear of other kids who had experienced qassams falling near their homes.  I felt their fear. You can’t help but feel it – because we work on a psychological level in our group. I wanted to help them.

Judih: How did the play start?

Melany: “A qassam fell on our workshop. Not when we were there, but still, it was shocking. That’s how the whole play idea started. All of us, for the first time, shared the feeling of a qassam landing in our lives. We didn’t know what to do at first. I mean we cried.  It was such a shock, but then we decided we had to use drama to overcome the feelings we had. So we began to work on the play”

Judih: Is the play still being performed?

Melany: The play is going to be performed. I’m not sure when. But, we still meet every Monday afternoon to work on drama.

A quote from the play, from a monologue by Osnat:

It happened the same morning.

It’ll stay with me all my life.

The ‘Red Alert’ that i heard suddenly

Got me panicked and I didn’t know what to do…

Writing the Script

Ofer Sela, Israeli playwright, who has worked with the Mustache Theatre Group before, put together a skeleton of vignettes of daily life in this Otef Azza region. Along with this, the kids in the The Mustache Theatre added their own touches. A few wrote and performed their own monologues, others wrote brief sketches of things that typify life here, these days.

I spoke to Yuval Revia, an artist and a natural on stage, about his particular contribution to the performance. He wrote a piece about a kid’s birthday party. To the dismay of the young birthday boy, his relatives were afraid to step foot in the qassam-threatened area, and the only guest who actually showed up was a neighbour who dared to appear at his home in full padding and helmet. She managed to enjoy a super brief stay till she had to escape back to the safety of her family.

The little boy’s ice-cream reward for turning a year older didn’t really make a dent in the fact that people think three times before coming to family gatherings. But the laughter was apparent in the comic getup of the guest. What can you do? Life goes on no matter how inane.

Members of the Mustache Youth Theatre troupe include:

  • Aviv Zanzuri
  • Osnat Almog
  • Ioav Mishkyn
  • Yuval Revia
  • Yotam Labban
  • Ya’ara Messika
  • Carmel Israel
  • Liran Morad
  • Miri Sosnu Baski
  • Melany Rosemberg
  • Idan Aharon
  • Tzach Elbaz
  • Rahel Cohen
  • and Shahaf Simon

The Mustache Theatre is a theatre workshop for kids of Junior High and High School level from Ma’ale Habsor Comprehensive School together with Habsor Comprehensive School. The workshop addresses the very real talent of students in the area and offers a deeply needed mode of artistic expression. Many of the actors have other artistic skills, whether in the plastic arts, music or in writing.

The Mustache Theatre youth group has been in existence for a number of years.  This year’s production of Tzeva Adom was directed by Ya’acov Amsalem. Choreography was done by Osnat Kashi, music provided by David Valdman, costumes by Smadar Boaron. Production: The Only Team for Teenagers

The show “Tzeva Adom” has been touring all over Israel. Minimalism is the key. Props include a few chairs, a table. Visuals are screened onstage. Costumed in the colours red, black and white, the figures make dramatic impressions on a fairly bare stage. This is a play that can raise an audience’s awareness as to how absurd  life is, living together with the Red Alert. Yet, life goes on. Life goes on with humour, satire, and talking about things out loud.

If you get a chance, go see it.

I’ll add some contact info to this spot. Stay tuned.

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Quote from the promo for the play:

Life in the shadow of qassams, a group of kids show us daily life as it is, compared to what we’re told by newspapers. We look at the personal experiences as well as social life in Otef Azza. Songs and choreography, dramatic vignettes all make up this performance, something which communicates it all to the audience while offering these kids another way to deal with reality. Length of show: 60 minutes.