Shir Kaufman began her career with Evita, at the national theatre of Israel. The production starred some of the most famous actors in Israel – Ran Danker, Aki Avni (who lived in L.A. for eight years and appeared on the FOX TV series, “24”), and Shiri Maimon (who played Roxi in “Chicago” on Broadway last September).
This auspicious start whet her appetite to come to New York to continue her career. Shir began her New York resume at the most renounced of all theatre festivals – The New York International Fringe Festival, in Ionesco’s “How to Get Rid of it” Now a part of NY, Shir is taking her career in her hands.
Then she met Maya Avisar and the Alliance of Alien Artists.
She is now a performer and associate producer of the Israeli Artists Project in NYC. The goal of the organization is to promote Israeli culture, art, history, and artists in NYC to a diverse audience. Many of the productions include English literature and talk about universal subjects. The Israeli Artists Project hopes to grow outside NYC in the coming months. The organization’s next event is the season opening on September 22.
Before that, at the top of September, Shir will participate in a parody cabaret “Grab ‘Em By the Parody!”, produced by Jennifer Ambler. The satire tackles topics including American politics, health insurance, and everything in between. Shir is tasked writing and performing parodies of existing music in order to satirize popular subjects. As an international performer, Shir can talk a lot about the challenging visa process, the expensive health insurance and the fact that she put on a bit of weight since moving to America!
Showtones spoke with the latest star of the Alliance of Alien Artists
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Shir Kaufman, I moved to New York two years ago from israel. I’m 28 years old, and I’m a Musical Theatre singer, actress and mover. I studied Musical Theatre in Israel and at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) as well. I performed in israel after school, and I always wanted to move to New York to fulfill my dreams as an actress. I’m also a part of an organization called “The Israeli Artists Project (IAP) and its purpose is to promote Israeli art and artists. I hope one day we will combine Israeli and American audience that will come to see an Israeli play in English and will be able to identify.
Since I was very young, my biggest dream is to be the first Israeli Elphaba on Broadway. That’s the reason I moved to New York. I wanted to move after the army (when you live in Israel, you need to serve two years in the IDF, Israeli Defense Force from age 18-20 for girls and 18-21 for guys) but back then the dream seemed impossible. But I was certain that I will get there. One time someone asked me “when do you see yourself in the next five years?” and I said without hesitating: New York. and really, after 5 years (actually 6 but who counts) I was in New York, so dreams come true, it will take time but if you want it badly it will happen.
How helpful has the Alliance of Alien Artists been to you?
I met Maya [Avisar] when we both went to AMDA, but we were in different classes. After Maya graduated she started to build her career in New York as a young artist and built the Alliance. I thought it’s a good idea, but I didn’t know how far it could get. After I saw her first cabaret night “Broadway Around the World”, I realized how much power this organization have. We all know New York is full of international artists who want to succeed in show business. Did you know that only in New York there are million actors? Million! It’s crazy. So, this organization gives opportunity to all the international artists to perform. And I think it’s important to get exposure if you want to make it here as an international actor. And mostly, when you sing a Broadway song in your own language it’s always touching, like a girl from Korea sang “Far From the Home I love” from Fiddler on the Roof in Korean, I think it’s amazing to see it, and New York is the place to see shows like this.
What were some of the difficulties in working here?
My family still lives in Israel so it’s challenging to live in a different country and so far away. They visited me here when I graduated, and I went there several times during these two years. But yes, Mostly the distance from my friends and family. I am very grateful that I have such an amazing family and friends who are supporting me so much to chase after my dreams. That’s not goes without saying. And when I perform here, I wish they could come see me, like they used to back home. Also, there’s the culture difference: Israelis are more “direct” and “rude” while Americans are more polite and politically correct. With an Israeli you’ll know right away if you can be friends, or not. But they will show you when they like you, too. I believe that art can connect people from all over the world, because in the end we all want the same things as humans. That’s why art is so great – it connects people.
What’s in store for us from you here in NYC?
Definitely keep working and performing, either for IAP and for other projects in the city, International or local. I am very open to new opportunities and like to explore as an artist different roles from different cultures. I like history and like to hear other people’s stories. I think it can get us understand each other better as a society. For example, I would love to be cast for a diverse and challenging role and find common things in the character I’m playing. I also like to learn different accents and dialects, such as British or western accents, mind as well German or European dialects. And who knows, maybe someone will read this article and will call me for an audition for “Wicked”, miracles happen sometimes, do they?