Tel Aviv native Ofir Nahari combines his talents as an actor, a composer and a choreographer in his newest show at 7 Stages Theatre in Little Five Points.
Nahari spoke at the theater about his work with 7 Stages and provided an inside look at the show, “The Followers: A Retelling of the Bacchae,” based on the ancient classic by Euripides.
AJT: The show is based on Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. You’re Orthodox, so did doing a show about one of many gods conflict at all with your own beliefs?
Nahari: It’s a question I definitely struggled with at first. I’m playing a different kind of god, so I had to think about what it really means to play that. I realized I didn’t need to play what I thought of traditionally as a god; I just needed to play a human being. It’s about playing the character with some humanity and thinking about that.
I tried to ask myself questions about what the character needed. His mother died, and he wants her back just like any other child would. I wanted to bring to light what Dionysus’ true beliefs are and what it means to follow those beliefs. The thing I’m most proud of about his character is the humanity I played him with.
AJT: Can you describe more of the plot of the show?
Nahari: We combine puppetry, physical theater, dance and opera to tell the story. Dionysus performs a series of miracles and gets vengeance in very tragic ways. All the while, his followers are questioning what he’s doing. It’s a story of the abuse of power and what it really means to have blind faith. I’m enormously excited about this show.
AJT: You still currently live in Israel. How were you able to be a part of this show in Atlanta?
Nahari: I’ve worked with Michael Haverty, one of the artistic directors at 7 Stages, on other projects, and Margaret Baldwin is a professor of acting and theater at Kennesaw (State) University. They created this play together, and over a period of four years Margaret would do a pilot of the play for her students. Each time she got a different reaction from her audience, but over that period of time she was able to get a good amount of feedback.
Michael then saw a taped piece of a show I did in Israel, and with the help of the Israeli Consulate and some Israeli colleagues, Michael was able to get me here for the show. The Israeli Consulate (director) for art, Yael Nehushstai, was very important in the process. I look at this finished play as the closure of that process.
AJT: How were you involved in the Israeli theater before doing the show here in Atlanta?
Nahari: Well, the show I was doing that Michael Haverty saw a recording of was called “Amassan Show,” which translated means “nose one nowhere” and is a play on words in Hebrew. It was a show about a clown in white face paint that I produced and directed. I’ve also done work with 7 Stages in the past. I’ve done clown workshops there, and I’m working with Emory University to do a master class and workshops in physical theater. I’ve been a part of so many shows in a lot of ways, though. I’ve created many shows. I work as a composer in orchestras, and I teach regularly in Israel as well. I teach at a circus school called Sandciel and Nissan Nativ in Tel Aviv, an acting school where I actually graduated from myself.
AJT: How have you enjoyed your time in Atlanta, and what are your plans upon returning to Israel?
Nahari: Oh, I really like Atlanta. I would love to stay here and work if I had the opportunity. Since being here, I’ve attended Chabad Intown regularly. I go to synagogue on Fridays and Saturdays, and I have specifically really liked getting to know Rabbi Schusterman better at the Chabad. He’s a great guy. I’ll likely go back to Israel after the show, though. I’d love to open up a Jewish theater that combines beit midrash with art. Art is endless, just like the Torah, and this is the beauty between the two subjects. I see myself as a creator, and I just want to keep creating.
What: “The Followers: A Retelling of the Bacchae”
Where: 7 Stages Theatre, 1105 Euclid Ave., Little Five Points
When: Through Sunday, Feb. 25
Tickets: $22 or $25 for adults, $15 for students, $18 for military personnel and seniors; www.7stages.org or 404-523-7647