‘Voca People’ crash-lands Off Broadway, giving Israeli artists a stage to shine on
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‘Voca People’ crash-lands Off Broadway, giving Israeli artists a stage to shine on

The West Side Theatre in Manhattan, 8:03 p.m. The stage lights up revealing eight all-white creatures except for their red lips. They scream. The lights turn off.

So begins the new Off Broadway show “The Voca People.” The premise is that aliens from Voca, a planet behind the sun, crash-land on Earth. They communicate only through song and sounds. Singing is also an energy source for the Voca’s spaceship; the aliens sing human songs, unaccompanied, to get enough power to fly home.

The brainchild of creator Lior Kalfo and co-creator and musical director Shai Fishman, “The Voca People” originated in Tel Aviv. The troupe of six vocalists and two “beat boxers” (artists who use their mouths to make incredible sound effects) gained popularity from a video of a practice session that was posted on YouTube. Now, with more than 8 million hits, “The Voca People” are an international sensation.

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The eight Voca People sing songs to get power they need to fly back to their own planet.

There are three troupes – or “delegations,” as Fishman calls them – with shows running in New York, Paris, and soon Germany. Voca troupes have performed all over the world, from Singapore to Brazil.

It was in Brazil, Fishman said, that he knew the play would be a huge hit. The play was performed before an audience of 4,000 people. “When the lights turned on and the Voca people screamed, everyone laughed, and we knew [the show] would be good.”

Fishman travels to each site to conduct interviews and other promotional efforts, as well as to keep an eye on the needs of the various productions. The show is slightly tweaked for performances in different countries, he said, including the use of local songs and local languages. Built in, as well, are 20 minutes of audience participation.

“Seeing that the show ‘works’ the same way in every country I visit is a tremendous feeling,” Fishman said.

At a time when Israel is under intense scrutiny by the world, Fishman believes that a traveling Israeli troupe with a popular show makes for good public relations for the country. “The fact that Israel is in the news for a different agenda other than the Palestinian conflict is great,” he said. “The fact that people know that Israel exports art for the sake of art, and that Israeli artists are innovative and creative, should help the rest of the world understand what Israel’s true potential is and what incredible things the Israeli people (not just artists and creators) are capable of doing.”

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