BORN AMSTERDAM, NOVEMBER 5, 1922. DIED TEL AVIV, APRIL 19, 2008, AGED 85.
FOR NISAN Nativ, founder of one of Israel’s foremost drama schools, theatre creation was a lifelong ambition in a country with a limited theatrical tradition, writes Mordechai Beck.
He fell in love with theatre as a child in Holland. His parents, who finally settled in Amsterdam after fleeing Odessa and living for a time in Poland and Germany, often hosted Jewish actors who were fellow-refugees. Born Nissan Notovich, he grew up in a Hebrew and theatrical culture.
At 15 he went on his own to British mandate Palestine. He fought in the final stages of the Second World War in the Jewish Brigade in Italy and as an officer in the Armoured Corps in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
He started studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, then went abroad to courses in Paris, which concentrated on mime, and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
Returning to Israel, he enrolled at the Habimah Actors’ School in Tel Aviv. He worked as a director in theatre and radio and, for a short period in 1957-58, ran the Habimah school.
His problem, he revealed, was how to reconcile and merge what he learned in Paris — “how to use my body” — with whathelearnedfromHabimah—“how to use my mouth”.
When he set up his own school in Tel Aviv in 1963, it was both to teach and to learn alongside his students, many of whom went on to become leading performers on stage, radio, TV and film.
He fashioned his own principles of acting, emphasising the connection between word and body language.
According to Arik Eshed, director of the Acting School’s Jerusalem branch, opened by Nativ in 1986: “He had no one technique; for him each student was an individual who needed to find his or her truth.”
Former student, actress Karen Moore, recalled his declaration in her first class: “It is permissible to make mistakes.” He made his students “look at reality in unconventional ways, in order to discover the obvious”, she explained.
Other graduates of his school, well known in Israel and beyond through film distribution, include Shuli Rand, Moshe Igvi, Maital Du’ane, Shira Geffen and Orna Fitusi.
In 1992 Nativ received the Tel Aviv award for performing arts and, in 1999, the Israel Film Academy lifetime achievement award. He was due to receive the Israel Prize for his life’s work, the country’s highest civil honour, which many thought was overdue, when he suffered a heart attack.
Helivedmodestlyandnevermarried but 700 people attended his funeral, including many former students.
Nisan Nativ: dedicated to drama