Improv Ensemble Brings ‘Sipur Yisraeli’ to Life


A local acting group is turning stories featured in a popular Israeli radio show into an interactive performance.

Sipur Yisraeli will come to life in Elkins Park next week, thanks to White Pines Productions, a performing arts organization interested in developing community through creative arts.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Sipur Yisraeli is an Israeli adaption of the popular, Ira Glass-produced This American Life, a Chicago-based journalistic public radio show mainly comprised of short stories and essays.
Dayna Glanz, program director for Klein JCC’s Center in Eastern Montgomery County, learned about a cultural grant being offered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and had an idea.
She proposed that Bright Invention, an improvisational theater ensemble group of 14, which is part of White Pines Productions and with whom the Eastern Montgomery County branch of Klein JCC has partnered with since last September, take some of the stories from Sipur Yisraeli and turn them into interactive, improvisational performances.
White Pines founder, Benjamin Lloyd, said he jumped at the chance to have Bright Invention act out episodes of the show, which was created by Israeli friends Ro’ee Gilron, Mishy Harman, Yochai Maital and Shai Satran.
“We are bringing to life an authentic experience from a country that’s deeply important to many of us and can tend to get buried in political policy debates,” said Lloyd, whose group offers acting lessons for seniors served by the Elkins Park branch of Klein JCC. “It’s important to remember that there are human beings who live in Israel and have amazing, complicated, wonderful, romantic, occasionally depressing lives like the rest of us.”
The first episode Bright Invention tackled for an earlier performance in March is called “Bees in the Service of the IDF,” during which an Israeli soldier fakes an illness to receive sick leave from the army in order to visit an American girl upon whom he has a crush.
During the show, going by the title Real Life Israel, the ensemble asked audience members to write down their favorite romantic memories, which were incorporated into the second half of the performance, according to Lloyd.
In all, the group will act out five different episodes over five separate shows at various locations. One show will take place at White Pines Productions’ Elkins Park site on April 26, and another on April 28 at Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a Conservative synagogue in the area.
The creators of Sipur Yisraeli will come from Israel to join the cast for the second half of the April 28 performance to discuss their show and take questions.
Lloyd said that he was looking forward to meeting them and that he is “really interested in what they have to say about what we’re doing.”
For her part, Glanz expressed gratitude to Federation for sponsoring the performances through a $2,000 grant from the Israeli Cultural Fund. The grants are awarded to programs “that are innovative and collaborative,” according to Beth Razin, who manages Holocaust and Israel programs for Federation. 
“It’s invaluable,” said Glanz, whose elder son, Rafi, will soon finish his service as a lone soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and whose younger son, Remy, is planning on enlisting in the near future. The grant is “so incredible and the possibilities are endless.” 


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