Conflict & comfort zone - An improv weekend in Israel

Jerusalem view

Jerusalem view

I am in Tel Aviv and a young man enters the bus. He carries a large black rifle. He takes the seat across from me.

Then an older woman with a flowery dress sits next to him. She plucks something out of the man’s hair and straightens his collar. It is his mother, and she is bringing her young son, the soldier, to the train station. The rifle rests on the seat between the two.

Recently I was in Israel. I was there to teach and perform with Lamabati, an improv company from Tel Aviv. Being there I got a bit more of a culture shock than I ‘normally’ get when travelling Europe. Israel is a complex country, I discovered.

Or as Nimrod, one of my workshop participants, stated: For the people of Israel, conflict is their comfort zone.

Isn’t that beautifully phrased? It made me realize that it is just a different reality. In addition, it brings a whole new flavor of improv. And that was very inspiring for me to teach and perform in.

The Lamabati had made a serious effort to make this weekend a success, which resulted in 3 full workshops and a full house for our performance. We played a format I had developed last summer for Improvaganza: the Ghost Touchers.

It is a beautiful, theatrical but also quite abstract longform. It includes more dramatic story telling and the presence of ‘ghosts’ in every scene. Not anything like the witty Lamabati were used to.

So yes, we were nervous. Them, because of the vast change of style. Me, because I felt super responsible for them having faith. But as it goes with stretching comfort zones, we overcame our nerves and played so much better than we thought possible. What a rush! What an achievement!

The workshops were also above expectation. As it turns out, the super laid back Israeli attitude before starting does in no way reflect their drive to improvise. It takes a long time to get them inside the building, and then on their feet, and then in a circle, but once they are in, they are IN. I taught Heart Surgery for Dummies (with an actual sniper commander in the group), Lasting Longform Skills and Dimensions. I felt lucky to see so many great scenes.

In one of the scenes, 2 lovely female improvisers Yael and Tali played cooks in a prison. The scene started with them stirring in a pot while saying “I fucking hate this job”. Before I could find a moment of silence to side coach them on a positive start, they had already continued. They loudly ranted about how terribly awful this dreadful job was. They finished each other’s sentences, made big hand gestures, laughed loud, and chattered full of energy and agreement. It was an absolute delight to watch.

Of course. Conflict is their comfort zone.


I owe much thanks to Lamabati for the amazing job they did of organizing the workshops, show, coaching, accommodation, public transportation tips, rides, local snacks, and making me feel so at home. Love to Amir, Hila, Itamar, Oren (G), Adi, Uri and Oren (L). Also תודה רבה to Rutie, Barack, Lynn, Yael, Liron, Atalia, Nimrod, Inbal Lori and all the wonderful workshop participants.