The Process of the Nivo English Play

DSC_0721The Nivo English Play (NEP) is as much about the process as it is about the product, if not more. Every summer, members of Nivonim have the option of participating in the Nivo English Play. They spend a lot of time collaborating and creating an original piece of theater. It is an amazing and truly meaningful experience for our eldest campers.

This summer, the play is directed by Rosh Drama Rebecca Nadis. But what Rebecca does is much more about guiding her campers to develop and think about the Jewish context that is at the center of this year’s play: the book of Shoftim. Shoftim is the book of Judges, which develops the cycle of teshuva, whereby the Israelites stray from God, war breaks out against the Israelites, they cry out for help, God sends a military leader, and peace is restored until the next time they stray. This cycle and the book of Shoftim connect nicely to Nivonim’s summer theme: the idea of counterculture, whereby deviating and straying from the norm can create a change. This cycle is the basic theme of material for the play.

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On the first day of play practice, Rebecca presented the actors with the text. They discovered ideas on their own based upon those texts, some expected and some that were very original. They did acting exercises, based on movement, stretching, and voice, and they walked comfortably in the space of the teatron and played drama games. This was both to amp up the group’s energy, and also to make them more comfortable with each other.

For ten days and two nights, NEP actors work together for hours to develop their material and rehearse for the final play. The material comes from journal prompts and entries that the actors work on each day. Those prompts were things like: think about two times you deviated from the norm, one which had a positive result and one which was more negative. Rebecca helped take the voices and perspectives of the journal entries and reassign them to different campers. Then each camper responded to an element of the story of Shoftim using that voice, which was then shaped into a character. Once each Nivonim camper had their own character, they created their back-story, developed where their different characters would meet, and thought about what story they wanted to be telling.

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There are sixteen campers in the Nivo English Play, a larger group than usual. And the characters and story reflect that dynamic company. As the script is finalized, the actors will begin learning their lines and practicing and staging the show. The play will be performed three times, first for all of Nivo (likely on Saturday night, July 12), then for Bogrim through Nivo, and finally for parents on Visitors Day. Their process is underway, and as they continue to improve the show, they’re thinking about all of the things they’ve enjoyed about the process, and the ways in which they’ve grown. Here are a few of the participants thoughts on NEP:

Hana L.: I like building ideas off of each other and helping one another to develop our characters.

Coby D.: I like walking in the space; it’s an exciting way to start the day.

Elan E.: I’ve really liked writing scenes.

Sophie C.: I like how the warm up activities turn out to be part of what we’re doing, that they tie into our theme in the end.

Ranan V.: I like the thought-provoking conversations and the process of building up to the actual show. I’ve enjoyed learning what it’s like creating a piece of theater.

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