After a teacher told her she didn’t have the talent to succeed, Sivan Hadari, an American-Israeli actress who now lives in New York, traveled the world to free herself of debilitating self-doubt.
In her first solo show, “The Emancipation of a Sassy Jewish Woman,” Hadari chronicled her sojourns as she searched for a new path for her life. The show premiered in 2010 in the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row, winning an award for Best Solo Debut. It returns this weekend for two performances at the Times Square Spring Theater Festival.
Directed by Charlotte Cohn, the hour-long show details Hadari’s upbringing in Brooklyn, as the child of a Tunisian Jewish mother and Persian Jewish father. After making aliyah with her family when she was 12, Hadari attended the Yigal Allon performing arts high school in Ramat HaSharon, as well as the Beit Zvi conservatory in Ramat Gan. But after returning to New York, she received a withering critique from a non-Jewish acting teacher who told her to go back to Israel, get married, have babies and abandon her acting career. She was depressed for months, but finally resolved to head to India to seek spiritual enlightenment.
Thus began a more than two-year-long odyssey that included staying with a friend whose parents rented out an entire luxury hotel for their thousand-guest 25th-anniversary party; the mother rode into the celebration on an elephant preceded by 10 horses and camels. Hadari then found herself in quite different circumstances in Israel, living as a kind of drifter in a settlement overlooking Jericho, where she went barefoot and wore a flowery dress and a poncho. Other colorful adventures took place in China, Thailand, Hawaii and Hilton Head, S.C.
With renewed confidence and focus on her acting career, Hadari came back to New York once again, where she quickly landed roles in Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” Melanie Zoey Weinstein’s “Sex and the Holy Land” (which premiered at the 2009 Fringe Festival) and at last year’s pre-Purim Party variety show at The Delancey Bar, “Crazy Kinky Purim Extravaganza.” She also started working with cable channels in New York, producing commercials for the Israeli Network and covering cultural events for Shalom TV.
In an interview, Hadari told The Jewish Week that the show represents her “emancipation from my own Egypt — from anti-Semitism, male chauvinism and people who tell you that you can’t make it.” She performs the show, in which she shows off a dizzying variety of foreign accents, in front of a backdrop of snapshots taken from her travels.
Her “sassiness,” she speculates, comes from the Israeli part of her identity. She has channeled it into her writing and acting, as well as into the founding of an organization called Isramerica, which supports artistic production by Israelis living in New York. Isramerica, Hadari said, promotes “cool, young, hip theater. It sponsors things that are now, but without any political or religious overtones. It presents the beautiful and artistic side of Israeli culture.”
“The Emancipation of the Sassy Jewish Woman” runs this weekend at The Little Times Square Theatre at Roy Arias Studios, 300 West 43rd St. It will be performed on Saturday, April 14 at 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 15 at 8:30 p.m. For tickets, $18, call SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 or visit smarttix.com.