"The Milstein Connection"
by Gad Nahshon
One can not be surprised by the fact that a small avant-garde Jaffa-based theater, namely, 'Notzar Theater' (Hebrew: The Created Theater) has been recently the focus of the Israeli media. It is a unique young theater which demonstrates by its various productions and educational-community activities the specific Israeli reality: we do not have a national-social frontier, we must face the reality of war and peace. We must also face the fact in Jaffa, the existence of Israeli-Arab minority which recently rioted in an unprecedented manner.
Notzar is not a simple political theater but its last successful original production of The Border and the Return do discuss the issues of war, violence, victims, refugees. The issue of refugees is a highly sensitive one since we, the Jews, were the eternal tribe of wandering refugees. One the other hand, we have to challenge the pressure of the Palestinian millions of refugees who would like, in principle, to return to Israel, blaming the Jews or the Zionist for their plight. Of course, we figure out that this is a way to dismantle the Jewish majority in Israel and its ramifications. But Notzar Theater is a sophisticated creative entity. It is a grass roots Israeli young theater which loves the original material, the group creations, and the pleasure of the experiment.
Avishai Milstein, the group's playwright, remarked about The Border and the Return in an interview: "This time we are talking about war but in a funny way. The central theme of The Border and the Return is the search for peace. I am not talking about any particular politician because they are all the same to me. And this play could have been written ten years ago."
Notzar Theater was established by a group of young actors, an independent group which based itself in the Alhambra Hall in Jaffa. This group of 20 actors made history. They produced then plays. They played in Israel, Germany and the U.S. They became an internationally acclaimed theater. They won many awards: one from the U.S., 'Israel New Foundation'.
They are being supported by many prestigious foundations but without their own sacrifice and dedication they would have to cease to exist. The secret of their success is their comradeship, the family, or the 'extended family' connection. This aspect has contributed to the success of Notzar. It is like describing a family tree. I must point out: It is an intense non-stop dynamo of sophisticated artistic creations and productions. It is an epitome of a high degree of commitment to art and excellence. It is the utmost realm of experiments in the theater.
Indeed, the Milsteins were the founders of Notzar. The senior veteran actress is Shifra Milstein. She has contributed to the Israeli theater for many years. She also acted in many Israeli films. She has great experience in education as a drama teacher. The success of Notzar is due to her experience and dramatic inspiration as well. Furthermore, she is the mother of Dalit Milstein-Lavy and Tamar Milstein. The father who is a famous expert of a different theater, the war theater, is Dr. Uri Milstein, who is also a non-fiction writer.
Of course one can imagine that the two daughters were raised in a highly intellectually and creative world. The Border and the Return is based on the stories of Dalit Milstein-Lavy. She and the playwright, Avishai Milstein, were the ones who founded Notzar in 1992. But it should be noted that Avishai is not related to the other Milsteins. Indeed, he is a very talented playwright who already has won many prestigious awards but the core of Notzar is the other three female Milsteins. Even the group's talented choreographer Eran Lavy has been 'integrated' into the Milstein Connection. He is the husband of Dalit and the father of their little daughter. By the way, Avishai's wife, Marit Yaffa Milstein, also joined the Milstein Connection. As I noted it is a sort of a dramatic Kibbutz, one extended family.
Of course there are many other actors who contributed to the rising prestige and success of this theater. It also should be noted that the family connection does not mean to go easy or to compromise quality: "When I applied to Notzar, I had to pass a very hard audition. My sister Dalit gave me a hard time. I had to pass many hard examinations," said the sister, Tamar Milstein in an interview (Laisha - Israel's Women Weekly). In this interview, Shifra Milstein remarked about the fact that her two daughters went on stage: "I was not a super woman. I am not a great housewife but I believe myself to be a good mother. I am very happy that they followed me in my profession. I view it as a personal compliment."
Shifra Milstein also started her career on the stage by playing in You, me and the next war' by Hanoch Levin, who died recently. It was a provocative anti-war anti-establishment play. Then she went to establish the 'Khan Theater' in Jerusalem. Today she loves to play together with her two talented daughters in the same play on the same stage. Certainly, it is a unique experience for any mother. Together they are not just developing new horizons of art and drama, they are trying to find new ways of free thinking or new aspects of the visual arts but also to mark their own individual protest.
Notzar is also a community oriented theater. Tamar Milstein is in charge of the related various projects. For example, together for Israeli and Arab youth, Otzma, for public school students, a theater for youth (seminars, lectures), a youth center (Jaffa) for artistic creativity. It is Notzar way to develop a new dialogue between youth and art or between Jews and Arabs.
Let me outline Notzar's highlights: 1) A. Bond's The Child Who Was Thrown Into the Fire; 2) Pantisilla by Von-Kliest. It was also performed in Germany; 3) A. Bond's The People of The Conserves. The Notzar Theater brings unique productions into the world of the Israeli theater and the critics love its achievements and its original approach to the world of drama.
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