Tag Archives: Dror Keren

‘What Life Wants’ Explores The Never Ending Lesson of Parenthood

By: Katherine Gianni

On Saturday, March 30, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre welcomed Israeli Stage founder and creative director Guy Ben-Aharon, Israeli actor Dror Keren, and a group of eager theatergoers for the world premiere staged reading of Mr. Keren’s gripping family drama, What Life Wants.

“What you’ll be seeing is the culmination of a two week long process,” Mr. Ben-Aharon explained to the sold-out crowd moments before the 4:00 p.m. show time. He, Mr. Keren, and a cohort of seven American actors had been rehearsing the show from March 17-31 as part of a two week residency at the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, made possible by a grant from the Jewish Cultural Endowment.

“We’ve been workshopping this script every day. In fact, the last scene was added today, just for you,” Mr. Ben-Aharon said to applause.  

What Life Wants navigates the complications of parenthood through the lens of a devoted father and husband, who grew up without a comparable father-figure. In the wake of his mother’s death, Dudi (Tom Kee), is reunited with the man who walked out on them, a man who he never refers to as dad, only coldly by his first and last name, Benjamin Nino (Patrick Shea).

The performance ran for 90 minutes with no intermission at Boston Playwrights' Theater. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ben-Aharon.)
Saturday’s performance ran for 90 minutes with no intermission at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ben-Aharon.)

Dudi and his twin siblings Miri (Deborah Martin) and Amos (Kadahj Bennett) are not primarily concerned about making up for lost time with Mr. Nino. Instead, the trio questions his motives for returning, while simultaneously reliving the details of their painful childhood.

Their ongoing conversations, quips, and conclusions about the elusive Benjamin Nino highlight the focal point of the show: you can’t always escape your past. But you can learn from it.

Hardened by unresolved feelings of abandonment, Dudi is unsurprisingly austere to his father in the beginning of the show. He chastises him for leaving the family, for his lack of morality, and for his seemingly aloof attitude.

Benjamin retaliates, in a stern parental reprimand, that Dudi’s perception of both his character and his actions are far from reality. We watch both men’s exteriors begin to soften as they share bits and pieces of the years gone by and the complex flood of emotions of wanting to be there for one another, but not quite knowing how.

This conundrum is also exhibited on-stage through their body language. The pair is always seen standing across from one another, their feet planted firmly in a pseudo face-off. There are no hugs or handshakes ever exchanged, as if an invisible barrier keeps the two far enough apart to never truly be able to reach out.  

Dudi, however, is the only family member that interacts with Benjamin in person, in part because he was the only one his estranged father contacted directly. A twist towards the end of the performance reveals why such is the case. Dudi’s daughter, Tali (Maya Tripathy), frequently asks about her grandfather, her adolescent curiosity insistent on piecing together her family’s past. Dudi’s wife and Tali’s mother, Anat (Jackie Davis), is cautious about asking too many questions of their interactions, knowing how contentious the relationship is.

Dudi’s decision to see his father, despite his deep-rooted anger, plays to another crux of the show. Instead of leaving his relationship with Benjamin to fate, he acts on his own free will. In other words, he makes his decisions not by what life wants, but rather, what he wants out of life. Amos and Miri choose also choose the latter, although in a less confrontational way. Their choice of silence, of not engaging or interacting with Benjamin is still a declaration of free will, one that is heard loud and clear by both the audience, and their older brother.

Mr. Keren and Mr. Ben-Aharon took questions from the audience following the staged reading. Photo courtesy of Mr. Ben-Aharon.
Mr. Keren and Mr. Ben-Aharon took questions from the audience following the staged reading. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ben-Aharon.)

A brief question and answer session with Mr. Keren and Mr. Ben-Aharon followed the reading. Many inquiries from the audience focused on Mr. Keren’s inspiration for the script and the many themes and motifs within the plotline.

“Parenthood is a never-ending lesson,” Mr. Keren said conclusively. “The main battles people face are within the walls of their homes. I’m happy I was able to dig deeper into these characters to show that.”

“Here at the Elie Wiesel Center we are very eager to foster a relationship between the humanities and the arts,” said EWCJS Director Michael Zank following his viewing of the 8:00 p.m. reading. “Israeli Stage has enriched our conversations through plays; conversations that we have in our classes and through writings coming out of Israel.”

For more information on Israeli Stage visit https://israelistage.com.

‘What Life Wants’ Prepares for World Premiere

By: Katherine Gianni

Israeli actor Dror Keren has wowed the performing arts world for more than three decades, acting in dozens of productions in venues across Tel-Aviv, including The Cameri Theatre, Habima Theatre, and Gesher Theatre. On Saturday, March 30, Mr. Keren will trade the main stage for a director’s chair to watch the world premiere reading of his new show, “What Life Wants.”

“I hope to act in the Israeli production,” Mr. Keren said before rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon in the second-floor library of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies. “But for right now I’m focused on working on the script to make it the best that it can be.”

Two performances are scheduled for Saturday, March 30, at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre on Commonwealth Avenue. Mr. Keren has spent just over a week crafting his script with a group of seven actors and Israeli Stage Founder and Artistic Director Guy Ben-Aharon. The residency will continue until the reading this Saturday, and was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Cultural Endowment, administered by the Elie Wiesel Center.

Mr. Keren explained that a large part of the creative process has been translating the original text from Hebrew to English to make it accessible for American audiences.

“I have Guy with me who is really such an expert in these kinds of rehearsals,” Mr. Keren said of his longtime friend. The two met in Israel over three years ago, but it wasn’t until the international premiere of Mr. Keren’s show, “On The Grill” in June 2018, that they began to discuss an Israeli Stage residency. For this show, Mr. Ben-Aharon has assisted in directing all aspects of the workshop.

“On The Grill” was written and directed by Mr. Keren. The show was awarded Best Original Play at the Israeli Theatre Awards in 2015.
“On The Grill” was written and directed by Mr. Keren. The show was awarded Best Original Play at the Israeli Theatre Awards in 2015.

“He knows Hebrew and English very well, so we had a few discussions on the right words or idioms that should be there for the English version that really say what I want to say,” Mr. Keren said.

And what is it exactly that Mr. Keren wants to say through his new play? He described that the show centers around what he perceives as his greatest personal challenge.

“Parenthood,” he said. “I think the main battles a person experiences in life are within the walls of his home.”

Mr. Keren said the group rehearses for five hours, if not longer, most afternoons—and the outpour of creativity doesn’t end after rehearsals wrap. “Usually I go to Guy’s place to continue working,” he said, smiling. “We have conclusions and things to go over that we noted to ourselves during the rehearsals.”

With one show already sold out, and a second performance filling up quickly, both Mr. Keren and Mr. Ben-Aharon are gearing up for a large audience.

“I hope they will be moved and I hope they identify with the characters,” Mr. Keren said. “I hope my play will reflect other people’s lives because that’s the main reason we’re here: to see yourself.”

Two staged readings of What Life Wants will take place on Saturday, March 30, at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA. The 8:00 pm show is currently sold out. For tickets to the 4:00 pm show time click here.

Does Love Really Conquer All? Ask The Matchmaker

By: Katherine Gianni

Matchmaking can occur in a variety of places—on a subway ride, in a crowded bar, or now most commonly, through a few clicks on the Internet. Avi Nesher’s film The Matchmaker chronicles many love connections in the city of Haifa, Israel during the summer of 1968, decades before the invention of dating apps and the phenomenon of “swiping right.” In the movie, prospective lovers rely on the expertise of matchmaker Yankele Bride (Adir Miller), to find their next romance. However, the story is not as much a quest for love as it is for acceptance, understanding, and survival.

The film was shown last Monday in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences as the third installment of The Holocaust Through Film series. Professor of Italian and director of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies Nancy Harrowitz and Assistant Professor of French Jennifer Cazenave worked together to organize the series this year.

Associate Professor of Hebrew, German, and Comparative Literature Abigail Gillman provided an introduction to the film and its director. “The Israeli film industry has really taken off quite recently, starting in the 2000s,” she explained to the group of students gathered in CAS 224. “Avi Nesher has played an essential role in the entry of Israeli cinema onto the global stage.”

According to Professor Gillman, Mr. Nesher’s 2018 film, The Other Story, was the most seen movie in Israel last year. The Matchmaker was released eight years prior and also saw a large success. On-screen, audiences are introduced to many characters in the city of Haifa, which is divided between “the Carmel,” or upper echelon neighborhood, and “the low-rent district.”

Yankele resides in the low-rent district with many other Holocaust survivors. Arik Burnstein (Tuval Shafir), his teenage counterpart, comes from the Carmel. The two form an unlikely bond after Arik’s father, Yankele’s childhood friend and fellow survivor, decides his son would benefit from working for the matchmaking business for the summer. At first, Arik is suspicious of Yankele, his place of business, and those who work around him. But as the story develops, so does their friendship.

Others from the Carmel remain wary of Yankele’s character. Meir (Dror Keren) concocts a scheme to destroy Yankele’s business and his reputation after a failed match. This, Professor Gillman said, hits upon a much larger theme within the movie.

Dror Keren plays a scorned lover in the film. He will be at Boston Playwrights' Theatre on Saturday, March 30 at 4pm for a world premiere staged reading of his new play What Life Wants.
Dror Keren plays a scorned lover in the film. He will be at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre on Saturday, March 30 at 4pm for a world premiere staged reading of his new play What Life Wants. To reserve free tickets click here.

“There’s this idea that anyone who survived the Holocaust must have done something really horrible to survive. There was this suspicion of survivors in Israel,” she said. “They were marginalized and very much living onto themselves. That was the norm.”

While Arik is successful in protecting the matchmaker from malice, he can do little to save him from a broken heart. “Towards the end you see love kind of leading to destruction in a way,” Professor Gillman said in a question and answer session following the screening.

“How true is everything that happened?” one student asked. “Is the film based off of real events?”

“It’s based on a novel by Amir Gutfreund called When Heroes Fly,” Professor Gillman said.

“And now it’s actually a series on Netflix,” another student added. “It’s really another incredible story about survival.”

The Holocaust Through Film series continues on April 1 with a screening of “1945.” This event is free and open to the public. For more information visit http://www.bu.edu/jewishstudies/calendar/events/.