FST’s second Mainstage production of the season, Handle With Care, opens on an Israeli woman, Ayelet, yelling in Hebrew at a good-hearted – but inept – American delivery man named Terrence. It turns out that Terrence has lost a very important package belonging to Ayelet. She is LIVID. Anat Cogan plays Ayelet, a young woman who struggles to communicate with the people around her, in Handle With Care.
We sat down with Anat to talk about the importance of Handle With Care in the world today, her artistic career in Israel and America, and the challenges she faces bringing Ayelet to life.
What do you love most about the story of Handle With Care?
After I read the play for the first time what resonated with me the most was that you never know what is going to come your way, especially when you least expect it. I feel like we always need to stay open and positive for whatever will come our way.
I love the fact that Handle With Care talks about a cultural and language gap. In our world today, we need tolerance towards one another more than anything. We need to accept and celebrate our differences. I think that’s what this play does in such a beautiful way – it brings together two people that barely understand each other who still find the way to communicate (and fall in love).
It is not every day that an Israeli character speaking Hebrew is represented on the stage. What are some challenges you’ve faced since taking on this role? What are some of the joys that have come up?
The fact that I will perform in both English and Hebrew in Handle With Care is very exciting! I feel like I have a secret weapon of some sort. After a few years of acting only in English, it is absolutely a joy to work in Hebrew again. I love this language and am very connected to it.
My main challenge in playing Ayelet is bridging the language gap and making the audience understand what I’m saying without them knowing Hebrew.
One of the biggest joys that has come up is hearing the audience’s reactions every night. I’m able to find out if they are laughing and understanding the jokes even though they are in Hebrew.
What was your training and career like in Israel?
I’ve been on stage since the age of 9. I performed in the Israeli theatre as a kid, then studied acting in high school. When I graduated from high school, I served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in the theater ensemble. I studied acting after that at the Nisan Nattiv Acting Studio for three full years. I come from a family of artists, so I guess theater has always been in my life.
After acting school, I continued working in Israeli theatre and TV for a few years, before deciding to move to the US to pursue my dreams and take them one step further.
And here I am, in the United States, playing an Israeli character in English AND Hebrew.
And I’m playing a character with the same name as my mother’s (Ayelet).
Life is interesting, indeed.
What is it like working in the theatre world as an Israeli actress? What has your experience performing in Israel and the US been like?
I feel like it’s very challenging to work in the theater world as an Israeli actress. No matter how hard I work, my “type” will always be limited and there will always be roles I won’t get cast for. That been said, I am who I am and that’s what makes me stand out. It took me a while, but I can definitely see the positive side of it today. I’ve learned to see it as my strength and not my weakness.
I feel like there is a big difference between performing in Israel and the US. In Israel, everything is smaller, which also has its charm. In the US, everything feels endless – actors, directors, projects, theaters, etc. It feels like you will always find your place, or at least be able to create one for yourself.
Is this your first time performing in a show where you have to act like you can’t understand what your scene partner is telling you?
Yes, this is the first show I’m doing in which I have to act as though I don’t understand my scene partner at all. Sometimes on stage and in real life, two people can speak the same language and still not understand each other. I think that is part of the point in this play – the way we communicate with one another and make a human connection is a lot more than just words.
Handle With Care played in FST’s Keating Theatre from December 11, 2019, to March 8, 2020.