This February, Get Decade-nt

On the eve of Tziporela’s 10th year, I take you back to an evening I will never forget.

My cheeks ached from laughter I couldn’t explain. I was laughing at things that weren’t funny. I was laughing at things that were extremely funny.

I felt a love I couldn’t quite explain.

A giddiness in understanding; a giggle at language.

Yes, this is an Off-Broadway show, I raised my hand to answer when the actor took the poll. I know what you’re thinking: actors took polls during a performance? Well, yes, among other untraditional things.

The lights come up and they just stare at you. All nine members of the Tziporela Theatre Company. Some of them you’ve seen before. You were just talking to that guy stage left in the audience—he had a guitar slung over his shoulder. They sit staring at you for a while. You laugh in uncomfortable silence. You feel like you’re the only one laughing. Then the lights flash and they’re facing the other way, upstage, backs to the audience, clapping and whooping. You can breathe. They’re entertained by something you have not yet seen, an inside joke they’re about to let you in on.

And they do. Moving through scenes of romance, melodrama, satire, and other categories of performance that surpass categorization, the actors turn farce into reality and reality into absurdity. A man tells a woman she has a mustache and the woman asks the man if he’s ever been to the dentist, and they’re locked in a sweet embrace. Insults are perceived sycophantically, flirtatiously, sincerely; expectations are upset. Actors become doodles of themselves, Pixar creations without the screen, only t-shirts and Magic Markers. Girls with animated faces mock Selfie culture, a dancer moves puppets with her feet. You have no idea what to expect yet you expect it. In a beautiful, sweeping sequence, you’re smiling and you don’t know why.

I didn’t know Israelis were so funny.

I’m smiling, broadly, at the sound of Hebrew, ecstatic to hear the language I haven’t spoken in too long. I’m glorious, proud. These are Israelis. These are brilliant Israelis performing at The Players Theatre in New York. Not everyone in the audience understands the added layer of humor in the sketch that loses lots in translation, translating from Hebrew to English, parodying an Israeli soap opera. Though even the silent sketches, in which the actors speak through movement, speak to the audience on many levels. To the cast of “Odd Birdz,” language, English or Hebrew, is secondary. First and foremost is their humility, their quietly conspicuous talent, their ability to laugh at themselves, that takes the stage. That greets the audience outside of the theatre on MacDougal Street when the curtain has closed and the doors have opened, and there is the cast, guitars and maracas in hand, singing and laughing and calling on us to echo their courage.

All this from rehearsals in a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv. All this on the streets of New York.

I welcome the ache in my cheeks. The blush too.

Until next time, Tziporela. Catch the new season and celebrate decadently in Tel Aviv:

About the Author
Atara Vogelstein is a recent graduate of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, where she concentrated in Creative Writing, Drama, and Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Master's in Drama Therapy at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
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