Gifts of Experiences

As another “time of the year” approaches again, most people are cleaning, cooking, and preparing their expandable pants for the big holiday meal.  Here’s something true to most celebratory occasions: The matter of The Gift— what to bring to the people hosting or celebrating.

I was reading somewhere about people giving “experiences” rather than “things”.  And that made perfect sense.  It’s one thing if a host asked for something in particular, but if not, there’s a big chance most gifts won’t make it out of their original packaging.  The amounts of money people spend on gifts are usually disproportionate to the amount of use the gift gets.Gift-pic2

I get it.  You were invited, you don’t want to come empty-handed.  And on a [place-your-special-occasion-here], of all occasions.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against “actual”/material gifts now and then.  But instead of giving a new tea kettle or towel set for your host/ess, why not give a certificate to a cooking workshop or segway tour?  The experiential gift is a refreshing and useful alternative, perfect for all gift-giving occasions, really.  Like birthdays or anniversaries.   I know of a couple who asked their wedding guests to give only experiential gifts, which gave them lots of fun activities to experience together as a married couple.

After all, it isn’t just cooking recipes learned or sites seen or yoga moves tried, it’s everything that goes along with it:  The people involved, the funny things that may happen along the way, the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and the feel of everything in that experience.  Those are the things that we enjoy and treasure.

Tight on budget?  That’s fine.  You can always give your time.  Take the hosts’ kids out to the playground or a day at the zoo, or help them get that thing fixed in the house (there’s always something), or just set a coffee date (with a turned-off or silent phone of course).  It may not seem much, but do you really get enough one-on-one time with all the people you know?

Need some ideas for your next gift?  I’m into theater, of course, so naturally I would recommend tickets to cultural events, like these.  The energy, the feel-good factor after the show… It’s just plain fun.  But just in case, whether it’s Passover or Easter or a birthday, here are a few more ideas, in no particular order:

  1. Show tickets (theater, concerts)
  2. Class or workshop (cooking, baking, art, creative writing, knitting, poker…)
  3. Segway tour
  4. Yoga/fitness session
  5. Spa certificate
  6. Personal wardrobe styling
  7. Photo shoot
  8. Water therapy session
  9. A trip or camping somewhere (even overnight)
  10. Makeup session
  11. Professional consultation (interior design, health, finance, home organization)
  12. Sports event tickets
  13. Museum visit
  14. Skydiving or gliding
  15. Yacht day excursion
  16. Pre-packed picnic
  17. Your offer to help clean up after the meal.

Got any more ideas?  Write them in the comments below, they’ll be useful to readers!

Happy Celebrations!
–Meirav

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Theatrical Review: Little Black Dress

New review just published!
“Assured, professional, lively, and a vocal treat.”
Read the full review by Helen Kaye of The Jerusalem Post here.
Check out new show dates here.

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NEW course for Israeli actors!

We’re very excited about our new course, opening in both Tel Aviv and Hod hasharon starting Feb.1, 2016, and run by English On Stage’s Founder & Artistic Director, Meirav Zur!

Check out all the details, including course info & testimonials from previous students, by looking around the Act In English website:  http://www.english.englishonstage.co.il

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Theatrical Review– Little Black Dress

We’re so excited about this recent review published by theater critic Chaim Noy.  See the full review here (in Hebrew) or the following ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

Review: “Little Black Dress” – a lively and impressive musical cabaret – Habima
“Little Black Dress” is a lively and impressive musical production with predominantly female participants, except for two male musicians, with the black dress as its motif, which is the renowned clothing item found in most women’s closets. Talented singers perform known songs and successfully light up the audience to make the evening a theatrical and delightful musical delicacy.
The production is by the theater English on Stage, which includes a professional team from the United States, England, and Israel, performing at Habima Theater and across the country.
The black dress is used to show a metaphor for women themselves, changing hats and clothing accessories, parallel to women’s careers. The show is a project ventured by Meirav Zur the director and Wendy Lehman the stylist.
The show’s performers, very talented actresses and singers, incorporate the best hit songs, and their performance is electrifying. The singers present the songs in lively harmony, individually and collectively, at an impressive pace. They present unique interpretations of hits by the legendary female singers of all time, including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Billie Holiday, Adele, Beyonce, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli, Celine Dion, and others.
Shir Zelinger, a gifted singer with a wonderful voice, is also the musical director of the show. The songs she performs are impressive, clear, deep, full of emotion, coming from a wonderful and grand voice.
Noeat Kedem is a wonderful singer with a gorgeously high range, capable of climbing the musical scales and shaking the performance hall. Her performance of GIRL ON FIRE and MAYBE THIS TIME were great and very emotional.
The wonderful Tamar Bettelheim showed amazing talent and highly impressive performance ability, especially in her exciting performance of the well-known song by Cyndi Lauper, GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN, as well as a wonderful performance of Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.
Tammy amazed at the piano, singing wonderfully and was also the associate musical director.
The graceful and talented Meirav Zur, who directed the show, wrote and incorporated comedic acts in between the songs.
Wendy Lehman was responsible for the stunning styling and Efrat Besandilov designed the beautiful dresses. Shahar Ratzenberg on drums and Yaniv Azikri on bass guitar astounded on the musical instruments, showing passion and great professional ability.
This entire powerful show seems as if it was taken from an Off-Broadway cabaret and there is no doubt that the charming performances of the talent on stage contributed to the fact that the tunes pulsed in the audience’s ears for many more hours after the end of the successful performance.

The author is Chaim Noy, journalist, Editor in Chief of international news agency IPA, former Chief Editor of the news agency ITIM, a member of the Journalists Association, a member of the Theater Critics of the Association of Journalists.

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New Review of LBD, by Meirav Gat of Saloona

Another great review of LBD by Meirav Gat of Saloona:  “You cannot sit in front of this performance without having to move and connect with the music.”(read full review here, Hebrew)
ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
The little black dress is a must-have item in every woman’s closet
Little Black Dress – LBD is the default for many of us.
It’s a dress that is suitable for a wedding dress as well as a business meeting or even when you just want to get dressed up a little in the morning.
You will not find a respectable fashion boutique chain today without his own personal version of the LBD.
This is a dress that adapts to every woman, and like any woman who wears it, it comes in all shapes and sizes – there is no one that does not have one!
Yesterday I watched the show “Little Black Dress” – an evening combining women, fashion, and the hits of legendary singers (the show is in English).
The cast consists of 4 singers (one of which is also the pianist), an actress, and two musicians.
Every woman in the cast wears a different black dress that suits her size and compliments her shape.
The show combines comedy bits with the greatest hits by Beyonce, Adele, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Whitney Houston, Kate Bush, and others.
“Every woman must have a little black dress in her closet,” said Coco Chanel – the dress in the show is a metaphor for the woman who plays a variety of roles in the modern world: a wife, a mother, a career woman, friend, etc. You cannot sit in front of this performance without having to move and connect with the music.
A performance full of, and filling you with, energy!
Oh, and it was also nice to brush up on my English.
The upcoming performance – November 22, 2015 at 20:30 at Habima National Theatre.

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Review of LBD, by Corny at Saloona

“The show fuses music, fashion, and humor, a winning combination for a fun night…”
A new review just in from last week’s LBD performance, by Corny at Saloona. See full review here, Hebrew.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
This unique show by ENGLISH ON STAGE, gives viewers a glimpse into the complex and magical world of women. The show combines music, fashion, and humor. A winning combination for a fun night, is not it?
The show “LITTLE BLACK DRESS” is a musical performance, at its root the black dress, which varies according to each one who wears it (because each one is different and special) and according to the accessories worn. And just like the women who wear it, the little black dress comes in every size and in every style. Everyone has their little black dress that suits her ….
In terms of fashion and fashion philosophy, the Little Black Dress takes us back to the Coco Chanel dress.
In 1926, Coco Chanel published in Vogue America a picture of a short black and simple dress that came straight to the market, decorated with diagonal cross-sections. Vogue writers called it “Channel’s Ford Model T”. Like the Model T, the little black dress was simple and accessible to women of all social classes, and Vogue declared the LBD would become a uniform for all women in all styles.
The dress is also known as “LBD” as the letters stand for Little Black Dress. This little black dress became famous because with the right combination of fashion accessories, it fits almost every occasion. Additionally, you can find the item of clothing priced for every budget and every age sector. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Four singers, different and special, both in appearance and vocal style, enabled us to see the different “faces” of femininity.
All four wore black dresses, each in a different style, suited her figure. However, they vary the accessories; some use the same accessories in different colors within the same song, which creates differences and similarities at the same time.
Four of them sound great, so I felt like a performance of “A Star is Born”, but selecting the “star” was very hard … all were wonderful, each in her own way.
Interwoven between the song performances were comedic acts performed by Meirav Zur, who was also wearing a little black dress …. (And how could she not …). These comedic acts added humor to this musical show, “seasoning” it with added color.
You’ve probably been intrigued and want to know some details about the theater …
English On Stage is a mobile English-speaking professional theater, with a rich repertoire of original productions in English, English performances, workshops in English, and special events.

Today, 22/11/15, the next performance will take place at the Habima National Theatre, Tel Aviv.
Hope that those of you who go to the show will enjoy it at least as much as I did.

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Bring Theater Into Your Classroom

Happy New School Year, from all of us at English On Stage!

To celebrate the upcoming school year, we’d like to share our 16 tips for teachers who’d like to add a bit of theater into their classroom:

1.  Warm-Up!
The must-have preparation exercise for any actor before a performance, and a great way to begin a lesson.  Warm-Ups are great to get the body and mouth moving, practice what’s been learned, and get the mind focused for upcoming tasks.
EXAMPLE: Simple stretches.  The teacher can call out stretches for the students to do (“Reach to the left”, “bend your knees”, “turn your head”…), Student volunteers can call out the stretches, or go through each student (Student A calls out a stretch, the class executes, Student B calls out a different stretch, the class executes, etc.). A simple take on “Simon Says.”

2. Name Game
Variations of these games are often used in acting classes and improvisational theater rehearsals.  It’s a great way to get to know each other and/or get involved (and practice English vocabulary and grammar).
EXAMPLE: Ball Pass. You will need a ball (or any other object to pass around).
• Holding the ball, have students begin by stating their name or something about themselves or to the lesson – (“My name is Adam, I love to walk.”)
• The student [Adam] must then pass the ball to another student.
• This process goes around until all the students have had a turn.
• Variation: After one round, the ball can be passed in reverse and the student is required to say the name out loud along with a part of the statement given by the last student – (“Adam, you love to walk.”)

3.  Readers’ Theater
A fabulous way to read any text!  Students will read a story or part of a story. They will choose specific characters within the story to play out (including the narrator if needed).  Remember that although the story is read out loud, each reader is an actor and should use voices, intonations, etc.

4. Picture Drama
Use pictures as starting points for students to create scenes or dialogues.  You will need a student to portray each person seen in the picture.  The more action present in the picture, the better!  The students can improvise the scene, use the picture to write a short scene to be performed later (or given to another group to perform), or use the picture to create a scene that must incorporate recently-learned vocabulary/grammar.

5. Dialogue
Do you have lots of texts or dialogue in your textbooks?  Act them out!  Watch stories come to life when they’re acted out instead of read out loud.  Putting “character” into any text (ANY text) read aloud will make the text much more engaging and entertaining!

6. New Ending
As a project or homework assignment, students must choose a known piece of literature, and must create an alternate ending.  This can be written/scripted, but even more fun if acted out or even improvised (for higher levels).  If done individually or in pairs/groups, the class can then vote for their favorite new ending performance.

7. Favorite Scene
Students (in pairs/groups) will act out their favorite scene (from a play or movie).  The class will need to guess which play or movie has been portrayed!  This is a fun way to get students involved in learning vocabulary and pronunciation.  As an added challenge, this task can require students to choose only those scenes that contain certain topics or vocabulary words.

8.  Chant Moves
Many songs involve physical movement, such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “YMCA.” Have students work together to create a song/chant that uses physical movement to help them learn a specific concept. This can be a great way to burn off energy in the classroom while still helping students learn the content.  This task can be given to groups, where the chant & moves are taught by each group to all the other groups.

9. Tongue Twister Talent Show
Have students perform a tongue twister.  Tongue twisters are great for pronunciation, and are often used by actors to warm-up and develop proper enunciation.

10.  Bio-Logues
Monologues naturally occur in plays and film, and are an essential part of almost all acting auditions.  In class, monologues can be used to develop English speaking skills individually.  Start small, depending on the students’ level.  Monologues do not need to be over 2 pages long, they can start with just a few sentences.  Students should of course add “character”.  EXAMPLE: Students can perform a first-person text from the textbook, or write their own monologues based on people they know (famous artists, politicians, family members, or other teachers from the school)!

11. On Screen
Whenever you need to teach a certain grammar structure or topic, it’s always great to incorporate relevant scenes from well-known movies or TV shows.  These “reference” scenes are a wonderful way to kick off a lesson or task/assignment (see #5,6,7,10).

12.  Student Life
One reason theater is so wonderful and necessary in society is the fact that it can serve as a mirror to our own lives.  As an assignment or project, students can write a scene based on a true story from their own life (something that happened in school or at home).  This scene can be a comedic or dramatic skit, and it can even be a simple recalling of a situation (going to the supermarket to buy bread).  There should be characters and lines (and actions always help).
Variation: This assignment can be split into 2 parts, scene writing and performing.  Once scenes have been submitted, they are given to different groups for performance.
Students can vote on the scenes, and the winning scene can be developed into a full play.

13.  YouTube
If you feel you do not have outgoing or theater-responsive students (it can happen), or if you feel you don’t have the time in class, you can assign some of the above suggestions to be filmed.  Filmed projects do not need to be uploaded to YouTube (or can be uploaded as private or unlisted), but can be a more convenient medium for performance-type assignments.

14.  Remakes
Most plays have been produced more than once, and each production is different.  Some directors make completely different choices and wildly different versions of the same story are created.  The same is true for film and music.  Use this “remake” or “interpretation” format to give students a different approach towards their class work.
EXAMPLE:  Have students watch the same scene from the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, a film version of the Shakespeare play, and West Side Story (the 1950’s musical based on the play). Ask students to compare and contrast the three versions, then design their own, 21st-century version.

15.  Puppet Show
Puppets are perfect for children and the more introverted students, and provide opportunities to incorporate other forms of art.  Students can perform texts from their book, or from a known or their own original script, using puppets!  Students can use their toy puppets from home or create their own.  This tip isn’t just child’s play, puppets (especially those created by the students themselves), can add great comedy to performances by older groups!  Variation:  Students must use a different student’s puppet.

16.  See a Show!
Take your students to see a performance in English, or, even more conveniently, have a show come to your school!
Get in touch with English On Stage for your English performance needs, performing stage productions and running theater workshops year-round in educational and cultural venues across Israel.  Also, there are many more useful tips such as those found in this list within the special Enrichment Booklet provided with every production, including relevant vocabulary, topic references, activities, project guides, and more.
There are not enough words to explain just how important and effective it is to expose students to live theater.  Besides the many cognitive, cultural, and social benefits, there is a certain type of inexplicable “magic” that can only be found in a live production of a play in front of an audience.     

Theater is not only an authentic language experience for students, it’s also wonderful for those who incorporate it into their lives (in this case, lessons).  These tips can improve language learning, develop self-esteem, expand public speaking skills in English, and more importantly, make the subject FUN! 
Enjoy!

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On the Radio…

Tune in today to Sunday Jewish Radio’s Kate Fulton as she’ll interview English On Stage’s Founder & Artistic Director, Meirav Zur.
Today from 12pm (local London time) or 2pm (local Israel time) on 558AM, tonight on DAB from 10pm and online.

Check out our MEDIA page for previous interviews and articles.

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Summer Shows 2015

Check out our upcoming performances open to the public for Summer 2015!

Stay tuned for more dates coming up…

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Happy Birthday, English On Stage!

This month, English On Stage is celebrating its TENTH year!
It’s been TEN amazing, educational, inspirational, and fun years, thanks to wonderful people on stage, backstage, and in the audience.  THANK YOU ALL.  We’ve been privileged to meet, work with, and perform in front of so many wonderful people across Israel. Here’s to many more years of creativity, dedication, inspiration, and fun!
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