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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/3/17

Israeli Version of "This American Life" Is Ready for Prime Time

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The Hebrew show is called Sipur Israeli and its English counterpart is called Israel Story.

JB: Now that Israel Story has evolved into a more 'serious' enterprise, has it changed the dynamic between the four founders? Are you all still involved? Has your team grown since the beginning?

The 'Israel Story' team cracks wise
The 'Israel Story' team cracks wise
(Image by Israel Story)
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MH: Yes, of course it has. First of all, our team has grown a lot, and some of the original founders have moved on to other endeavors. We are all still very close, but Roee, for instance, has begun a postdoc in San Francisco, and is thus naturally less involved on a day-to-day basis. All of the founders (expect for me) have had kids in the last couple of years, so that also changes the group dynamic to an extent. Maya Kosover was our first external hire, and she is a wonderfully talented radio producer who brings new perspectives and a new voice to the show. In addition, we have junior producers, interns, a production manager, sound designers, scorers, etc. The size of our team ebbs and flows, but it is always somewhere between eight and thirteen. We are very lucky to be working with amazingly dedicated people.

JB: It is indeed a talented crew. I first came across Israel Story when your troupe performed in Evanston late last year. I immediately became a fan of your podcasts. At what point did you decide to take the show on the road? And what were you hoping to accomplish?

MH: The idea of lives shows actually came from our dear friends at the JCC Manhattan. Back in 2015, they approached us with what seemed like an incredible offer - to produce a staged version of an Israel Story episode and put it on in New York. We knew that big shows like This American Life and Radiolab had put on live shows, and we thought that this could be an interesting challenge. Our first show, which headlined the JCC's Israeli Independence Day celebration was called 'Herzl 48,' and the idea was to tell stories of 'regular' Israelis, who all happened to share one seemingly random attribute - they all lived or worked at 48 Herzl St. in towns and cities all the way from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Dimona in the south.

Little did we know, when we accepted the offer, how different live show production is from creating a podcast. We had to think of entirely new realms, such as visuals, staging, movement, etc. But to our delight, the show was a hit, and inaugurated what has since become a core facet of our operation. In the last two and a half years, we've produced eight different shows (six in English, and two in Hebrew), and have had multiple tours across America with each of them. Our shows have taken us to more than thirty cities, and have allowed us to collaborate with phenomenal artists - singers, musicians, dancers, video artists, animators, comedians, actors and more.

What we love about these shows is that it allows us to meet our audience, and to see their reactions, in real time. Usually, we release an episode and it sort of goes into the air, we see the numbers, and study the analytics, but we don't really know if a certain line worked, or if a joke got laughs, or if an emotional moment came through. With the live shows, everything happens in front of our eyes, which is both scary and exhilarating.

'Israel Story' Q&A after live show, NYC, 2015
'Israel Story' Q&A after live show, NYC, 2015
(Image by Israel Story)
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JB: I bet. You've covered a lot of territory in the last few years! What's up next for you and Israel Story?

MH: Good question. One of the most exciting aspects of what we do is that it's basically impossible to run out of stories. Of course we always strive to grow, in every possible way - to challenge ourselves, report more complicated stories, improve our skills as storytellers, as editors, as scorers, etc. We very much hope to grow our audience, as we are still far from reaching our potential, and we hope - one day - to stand on sturdier financial grounds. But the bottom line is that we love what we do, and feel privileged to be able to tell people's stories, and add our tiny, tiny mark in the process.

Mishy tells a story as part of Israel Story's live show at his home in Jerusalem, 2017
Mishy tells a story as part of Israel Story's live show at his home in Jerusalem, 2017
(Image by Israel Story)
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JB: Stories are the best! Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

MH: Well, I guess I hope that people reading this will take a moment to check out our show, and maybe even listen to an episode as they're taking the dog out, or going for a run, or doing the dishes. And I hope that what they hear will make them want to hear more, and - above all - will make them realize that a person is a person is a person, no matter who they are and what they believe in, or what they look like, or who they want to marry. At the end of the day, we are all just people, and each one of us has his or her story to tell.

JB: So true. Thanks so much for talking with me, Mishy. It's been a pleasure. I've really enjoyed Israel Story, via podcast as well as the live performance I was lucky enough to catch last fall. You folks are definitely on to something!


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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