The speeches were short, the sketches were funny, and clearly I was not attending an ordinary awards ceremony. The Kipod Zahav (Hebrew: Golden Hedgehog) Awards for Fringe Theatre 2009, were presented on Friday, May 7th at the Tmuna Theatre in Tel Aviv. Prickly, small and ubiquitous, the hedgehog is a humorous yet apt representation of fringe theatre in Israel. Lacking the budget and accompanying conditions for producing theatre, fringe theatre is engaged in constant struggle for survival. Yet like the hedgehog, which despite (or perhaps due to) its size, has managed to survive in Israel, while other, larger mammals have disappeared, fringe theatre is everywhere, creating small, prickly, provocative theatre.
Avi Gibson Barel, Director of Hasimta, the oldest fringe theatre in Israel, expressed the spirit of the event as he announced the prize for Best Actor, “Fringe theatre is not defined by having no money. It’s difficult, frustrating, and strange. It takes daring and courage; it tries to create change and to mend the world. It is a way of life; it is a philosophy of life.”
Representatives of the different fringe theatres presented the awards and the entire event had an intimate, familial feeling. In fact, Naomi Yoeli, stepped up onto the stage with her grandson. While there was a lot of “team spirit” in the air, with thunderous clapping from different corners of the room each time someone was named from a particular theatre, there was also a sense of shared purpose. This was a gathering of people working on projects close to their hearts. Yoeli, who received the award for Actress of the Year, said, “I didn’t realize that I am an actress. I see myself as a medium for the women I bring to the stage. The star of this show is Netiva Ben Yehuda (the play Bein Hasfirot is based on Ben Yehuda’s novel 1948 – Between Calendars, Keter Publishing 1981), I would like to dedicate this award to her.”
Shmuel Shilo was honored with a lifetime achievement award as well as Actor of the Year. Oren Yadgar, who currently appears with Shilo in the Negev Theatre production of Pinter’s The Homecoming, was one of the nominees for Actor of the Year for his role in Hasimta Theatre’s Orpheus in the Metro. In accepting the award, Shilo gave a generous and heartwarming speech, saying, “I am currently acting in a movie by Yosef Cedar about a father and son who are in competition for a prize. Here too, a father and son are competing, but it’s a good competition. Oren and I talked about who would be congratulating whom. So now I will congratulate him. Lenny (Oren) is a wonderful actor, fun to work with, he is very talented. He really is a virtuoso.”
The selection committee was headed by Dr. Neri Horowitz, and included: Dr. Avi Oz, Itzhak Shauli, Amos Oren, Zachi Becker, Alon Cohen, Eyal Harkabi, Eliana Schecter, Idan Sobol and Doron Zafrir.
Kipod Zahav Awards for 2009:
Play of the Year – jointly awarded to Michael created and performed by the Michael Ensemble and directed by Itay Weiser, and Bein Hasfirot by Naomi Yoeli in collaboration with the Ruth Kanner Theatre Group, both Tmuna Theatre productions.
Kipod Zahav Moshe Shternfeld Lifetime Achievement Award to actor and director Shmuel Shilo, founder of the Negev Theatre, for his unique contribution to fringe theatre in Israel.
Actor of the Year – was awarded to Shmuel Shilo for his role in The Homecoming, a Negev Theatre production.
Best Playwright was awarded to Moshe Zagori for Betulim (Virinity), a Tzavta production.
Best Director was awarded to Itay Weiser for Michael, a Tmuna production.
Actress of the Year was awarded to Naomi Yoeli for her role in Bein Hasfirot, a Tmuna production. Yoeli was also awarded Best Adaptation to a Play for Bein Hasfirot.
Best Performer (artists who are not necessarily actors) was awarded to Nadav Hollander for his role in Michael. Hollander also composed the music for Michael, a Tmuna production.
Best Composition was awarded to Ishai Shefi for Ish HaRuach, HaZona veHaleitzan (The Man of Spirit, the Whore and the Clown), a Karov Theatre production.
Best Costume Design was awarded to Karin David for Beatrice, a Tzavta production.
Best Set Design was awarded to Paulina Adamov for Orpheus in the Metro, a Malenki Theatre production at Hasimta.
Best Lighting Design was awarded to Iris Mualem and Omer Sheizaf for Someone is Going to Come, a Tmuna production.
Best Concept was awarded to HaDira (The Apartment), an Israeli-Palestinian adaptation of Franz Xavier Kreutz Wunschkonzert, directed by Michael Ronen, a procuduction of the Arab-Hebrew Theatre in Jaffa.
Best Ensemble work was awarded to the contemporary Polish play The Journey to the Inside of the Room, by Michał Walczak, performed by Israeli actors directed by Wojtek Klemm.
If you haven’t seen these award-winning plays, the good news is that most are currently showing in theatres.