Stories & Articles

Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre…

Vanessa de Largie | Milk Bar Magazine | August 22, 2016

As human beings, we believe we know our parents and when we grow up, we are often shocked to hear their words and beliefs come out of our own mouths. Acclaimed director/actor Brian Lipson and choreographer/director Gideon Obarzanek bring us Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre… at the North Melbourne Town Hall from August 23 – August 28.

Self-devised and performed, this piece of theatre sees these great two artists present themselves as their fathers on stage. Choreographed by Lucy Guerin, Two Jews Walk Into a Theatre… is a challenging departure for this trifecta of performance-makers.

This week Milk Bar Magazine sat down with Brian and Gideon to talk about this new work.

How did the idea to co-write this play come to be?  And what was your collaborative process?

Gideon: While Brian and I are often involved in many other aspects of show making and presenting, the bulk of our professional experience has been me as a choreographer behind the scenes and Brian as an actor on stage and screen. So here much of our enquiry has been concerned with what can we do together on stage? I can’t remember lines and after many years of doing so, Brian hates learning them. In this performance, the content has been agreed but there is no script. Rather, it is a complex game guided by prompts and played to rules.

Brian: This project, like several others, originated from a wonderful Australia Council Fellowship that I received in 2011. During the course of that fellowship I elected to work for a week with 25 artists with a completely open brief. During my week with Gideon, we hit upon the idea of having a conversation as our fathers. We found the experience both liberating and shocking, and that improvisation forms the basis of this show.

Through the creation of this work what have you learnt about your fathers, your Jewish identities and yourselves as artists and men?

Gideon: When we began the objective seemed obvious – play our fathers. I mean, who knows them better then us? And of course we already had a lifetime of experience imitating them in jest, annoyance and sometimes in shocking surprise when with our partners or fathering our own children. But, and beginning with the three words my father begins most his sentences, ‘The truth is’, I see my parents through a very narrow, often solipsistic lens and this show is in fact about Brian and me. Impersonating our fathers is an attempt to step out of ourselves and make sense of our own memories, perceptions and how we have been individually and intrinsically shaped by our intergenerational social, economic and political history.

Brian: This is the third time we have assayed the exercise: we did a ??? development at Arts House in 20?? and a First Draft development at the Sydney Theatre Company in 20?? (both under the direction of Lucy Guerin). Each iteration has revealed new layers and subtleties to this seemingly simple format, while, at the same time, revealing complex problems of style and presentation. Over the last five years our understanding of the four men involved (or six if we count the grandfathers) has developed in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. It’s been hard work, but it’s been fun. I would recommend this form of therapy to anyone.

Tickets are selling fast.  Don’t miss out!

Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre…
Tuesday August 23 – Sunday August 28
Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne