A Director Who Rejects Traditional Theater

TO some, David Mayan is a genius. To others, he is the ultimate dreamer. But no one in the Israeli theater world would deny that he is an extraordinarily dedicated and unusual man. Mr. Mayan moved directly from being a drama student at Tel Aviv University into the limelight with a crackling directorial debut that catapulted him to national attention. Then he flopped. Abysmally. "To have so much exposure right after graduating [college] was a death blow," Mayan explains. "I went to the top; I went to the bottom. What was left for me?" He traveled abroad extensively to find out.

After several years of seclusion, Mayan was ready to return to the stage. Rather than accepting the European/American mainstream theatrical style, he devoted himself to finding ways of strengthening the interrelationship between audience and actor, and trying to develop what could be called a truly Israeli form of theater. He moved from Tel Aviv to the remote northern coastal town of Akko - which has a large Arab population, essential, he says, for his work. With four people, including Palestinian acto r Haled Abu Ali, he set up an avant-garde theater company in a centuries old, derelict insane asylum.

The Akko Theater company usually takes two years to develop a major production. It is then presented in the streets and other relevant settings - never on a traditional stage. Their last large-scale project in 1989, a forceful expos 142> of society's hypocrisies and lost ideals won the national annual fringe festival's prestigious first prize. Their coming production will look at what they see as their countrymen's preoccupation with the Holocaust. Is he presenting an obsession to the obsessed? "Yes, precisely," says Mayan.

"The work the group does is highly complex and poetic," says Shoshana Avigal, a theater critic. The company is "the most important and exciting thing happening in Israeli theater today."

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