2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview ‘Impossible to Translate But I’ll Try – True-Life Israeli Stories’ by Noa Baum

Acclaimed Storyteller Noa Baum shares delicious Israeli stories never seen on the news, in her Capital Fringe debut of: Impossible to Translate But I’ll Try – True-Life Israeli Stories.

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Impossible To Translate offers fringe audiences a chance to experience more about growing up in Israel than Moses and matzos or war. There is a fresh side to Israel in stories of breasts that cascade like pudding, lullabies and stinky feet, awkward first romances, mischievous matchmaking and daring swashbuckling adventures. Imagine a Middle-Eastern Garrison Keillor and you get the flavor of Noa’s storytelling as she takes us on a poignant and humorous cross-cultural journey through her life. Along the way, these personal and culturally specific stories resonate with our own stories of love’s quests, adventure, connection and understanding.  Life, impossible to translate but she tries and succeeds.

What brought me to create this show? Israel is often associated with conflict, religion or polarizing issues painted in broad black or white strokes. I’ve lived in the USA since 1990 and tour internationally. I am consistently struck by how a tiny place like Israel can generate so many extreme emotional responses everywhere I go. Israel is either put on a pedestal and worshipped like a religion, or reviled and portrayed as the mother of all-evil on this planet. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Israel but few have ever experienced it…. 

Noa Baum.
Noa Baum.

Storytelling is an intimate response to an impersonal culture”, said Bill Harley, one of America’s best storytellers. We live in a culture of sound bites and flashy headlines with little or no patience for nuance and gray. 

For me, Israel is not a concept; it’s my home, where my family still lives and loved ones are buried. My experience of growing up there is full of stories, not shrill sound bites and violent headlines. I wanted listeners to taste my culture and experience a different side of my homeland that isn’t seen on the news. I hope this show will connect you with my Israel: funny, normal, unique and full of many shades of color and love. I invite listeners to look beyond our differences into our universal humanity that connects us. 

I didn’t set out with any clear goal at first:  “The idea for this show started with an image – a little spark of a memory: I am facing my 4th grade enemy, the boy who chased me after school and pulled my braid, under the lamp post on the street in front of our apartment building. The enemy’s face is sweaty and red, his eyes bright green.

“What do you want?!” I yell into his face in a moment of unexpected courage.

(Ah, but to find out what he wanted, you’ll need to come to the show…).

That memory was connected to an entire story about fourth grade wars with boys, the books we read, my first love and a secret gangs of spies.

My creative process starts with speaking not writing. As I began to tell that story I struggled with communicating the specific flavor of my childhood in Jerusalem in the early sixties to an American audience. My native language is Hebrew. Trying to tell stories in a secondary language and translating my cultural references to American audiences was not easy. As I flailed about for words, trying to describe or translate the images in my mind, I kept saying, “Oh, it’s impossible to translate. But I’ll try!” and it was funny. Suddenly what was a challenge became fun. So that sentence became a thematic thread and eventually the title.

All the stories in the show are connected by many threads, the main one being love in its myriad and sometimes strange forms – like the comfort of my Polish grandmother’s stinky feet, the hysteria of finding a mate when you’re almost 30, or my mother giving me a name I hated attached to a Biblical story.

The exciting and interesting challenge has been to take these very personal and culturally specific stories that seem impossible to translate and try to offer them in a way that resonates with everyone’s quest for love, adventure, connection and understanding.

I had great fun creating these stories and I can’t wait to share them with the Capital Fringe audience.


Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller and educator performing internationally with diverse audiences ranging from the World Bank, prestigious universities and congregations, to inner city schools and detention centers. Born and raised in Israel, she was an actress at Jerusalem Khan Theater, studied with Uta Hagen in NYC and holds an M.A. from NYU. Noa was recently chosen by Washington Jewish Week as one of 10 most interesting local Jews of the year:

Noa offers a unique combination of performance art and practical workshops that focus on the power of narrative to heal across the divides of identity. She has lived in the US since 1990.  Visit Noa’s website



Goethe Institut – Main Stage
812 7th Street NW,  Washington, DC 20001
(Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown)
Saturday July 13th at 5:15 PM
Tuesday  July 16th at  6:15 PM
Wednesday July 17th at 8:00 PM
Sunday July 21st at 5:45 PM
Sunday July 28th at 4:45 PM


About Capital Fringe

Capital Fringe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2005 with the purpose of connecting exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District. Capital Fringe’s vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city.


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