Stranger in a strange land

A stranger, walks among the crowd. People talk to each other or to themselves, short stories are created in front of our eyes and then dissolve in the air, giving place to new scenarios. The perplexed stranger listens to the words and tries to decipher their meaning as he stares at the people speaking, trying to figure out the situation. He shares the ridiculous conclusions he draws with an amused audience.

Welcome to Zigota, a tiny fringe studio/movement theater ensemble presenting its new show The Passerby at the intimate Tmuna theater in south Tel Aviv. The name Zigota comes from the English zygote, “a cell formed by the union of two gametes, the encounter that forms life,” as the co-creators of the studio, Marina Beltov and Nathali Shilman, explain. The two bring together artists of varied disciplines to create productions which merge different styles and genres.

Beltov is a Russian-born choreographer who has won numerous theatrical prizes for her collaboration with local theatres and ensembles, while Shilman is a stage director, a graduate of the Nissan Nativ Theatre Studio where she was Marina’s student.

Passerby is the ensemble’s fourth show, and Beltov says that it partly reflects her experience as a new immigrant.

“I remembered how back in the ’90s I would wander through Tel Aviv, looking into the windows, listening to the conversations in the streets, trying to grasp this new reality.”

But, she insists, there is a lot more to her show than her own personal history: “This is about understanding, about carefully choosing words so as not to hurt, about being a stranger. This character is always coming from another place: one day from another planet, another – the Internet.”

The other Zigota members are also Nissan Nativ graduates, and probably not by chance. Dutch-born Nativ, a veteran Israeli theater teacher and himself a student of the legendary French mime Etienne Decroux, is a sworn believer in the priority of the movement over text.

“But the troupe members are not dancers: They are actors; they are movers,” says Shilman. “Theirs is the world of images, of characters. At rehearsals, we don’t just tell them ‘Stretch,’ but rather, ‘Try to reach the diamond in the corner of the room,’ and this is where the emotion comes from.”

Music is an important part of the improvised show. Dancer Stefan Ferry, a French member of Bat Sheva Dance Company is a DJ. He brings his huge music collection and changes the soundtrack as he follows the events on stage, while musician Gali Kaner adds flourishes from a saxophone and exotic instruments.

Budget has never been the strong side of fringe ensembles, but Shilman sees the bright side of the given: “It only makes your creativity run even wilder. No money for sets? Never mind – paper and markers are always here!”

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