Did you have one of those girls at school who you just loved even though you hardly knew them? I did, and her name was Nat Kras or Natalie Krasnostein (1988) as the teachers called her.
At PC, I adored Nat. She was fun, loud, unashamedly herself and I’d never, ever met anyone like her. This kid had more energy than the sun and I was mesmerised.
So, a thousand years later when I randomly contacted her via social media, I was stunned to learn she was in hotel quarantine in my hometown of Melbourne. She’d flown in from Israel a week earlier to see her family. I lobbied for lunch and we were lucky to sit down together in between lockdowns!
From the get-go, Nat was fabulously open.
When you hear the words ‘Perth College’ what are your first thoughts and emotions?
Great friendships with great girls, the fabulous 80s, love of Drama class, school productions, the School Uniform (wearing a tie is the very antithesis of how I have built my life now), school balls, 80s dresses and hair, electric, dense, alive, teenage years full of hope, fun, fantastic social activities, divorce trauma, rebelling from the establishment, body image issues, drinking diet coke as food, wearing mum’s huge sunglasses to hide my puffy eyes after I’d been crying all night from what was dissolving at home. I was embracing my youth at school, yet at home, that story was ending.
Why did your parents send you to PC, particularly given that you’re Jewish?
The choice was given to me and I decided to go to PC because there were more creative arts subjects and I wanted a different and new experience. Many Jewish families were deciding to send their kids to private schools other than Carmel, the Jewish School, for more exposure to different aspects of the wider world. PC welcomed Jewish girls and wanted to make it comfortable for us – apart from occasional Chapel and singing hymns at morning assembly, I didn't feel that religion was imposed on us whether we were Jewish or not.
Did you feel different as a Jewish person at PC?
Being raised as a Jew in Australia was a constant negotiation my entire life. Now that I live in Israel and I’m the majority, I have noticed my need to defend and negotiate my Jewishness has relaxed, so I can just be. At one point, we didn't have to go to Chapel at Perth College, but then it was made compulsory. I remember silently mouthing the hymns because singing Christian hymns was an act of utter disloyalty to my God and my Jewish sensibilities.
You did Year 12 at PC – how did that go for you and what did you do after school?
I wasn't very studious at school. I didn't evolve as a thinker until my 20s. I went on to do something different every year for about 12 years, which included spending a gap year in Israel, getting a Psych degree, going to Theatre and Art school, teaching modern dance at an Indigenous Youth Centre in Broome, spending time in America and Israel learning ancient Jewish text and delving deeply into Judaism. My Psychology Honours thesis focused on the intergenerational effects of the Holocaust on the third generation – my generation. I went on a family roots journey to Eastern Europe and explored where my family were born, married, lived, worked, died, were murdered. I went to Auschwitz in Poland and Mauthausen in Austria. I kept being drawn to concentration camps. It was like I was unfreezing ancient trauma by walking the land where their lives were interrupted.
You wrote and starred in a one-woman theatre show, In God’s Bedroom. How did that come about?
When I was 20, I studied Theatre in Melbourne and a solo show was considered the culmination of the learning and 13 years later, I was ready, because I felt like I had something to say. I'd been engaging deeply in ancient Jewish text, and I drew on various sources to create the show where God is portrayed as a lonely woman who falls in love with King David. The show brought the text to life using comedy, tragedy and physical theatre.
Tell me about the move to Israel. Why did you move and how hard has it been?
I moved to Israel in 2016. I'd spent three years here at different times of my life (17, 26 and in my 30s). Each time I encountered a different intense and interesting experience – living on a Kibbutz, studying the Torah, performing my show. I feel alive here, I work hard to make a living and the pace of life is more intense, but I have a full life. I have a partner, Zack, a cat called Julien, and good friends here. I have languages to learn, Hebrew and Arabic. The Arab world is opening up more and this is interesting to me. I live near the Mediterranean Sea too. The beach is transformative and the heat is something I love, intense and very hot.
I’m so sorry to hear your father passed away recently, and I know your mum passed a while ago. Does it change a person when they no longer have parents to anchor them?
Thank you for asking this question. We live in an illiterate society when it comes to grief, death, loss. I have a grief doula who helps me. My mum passed in 2010 and my father four months ago. It’s absolutely changed me. For me, there's no other way to face this loss if I'm not seeing it in the context of a spiritual path and self-development. Grieving deeply, feeling every ounce of the loss because it’s enormous, seismic, sometimes too much to bear. My parents were amazing – each in their unique way. I needed them and I still need them. I don't have kids, so there's an even greater existential emptiness. But emptiness is not the end of the story – for me, it is an invitation into living life with purpose and meaning.
What are you doing now?
I work at the Givat Haviva International School as a Theatre teacher. It's an IB school, focused on a shared society between Jews and Arabs and healing the conflict. Internationals and locals live and learn together. It's like a family. I launched my own drama school last year, ‘The Orchard of Dreams’, for anglos in my local community of Pardes Hannah, where I live. I’ve just staged a unique version of The Wizard of Oz. I'm also working on a new solo autobiographical performance piece called After the Tears.
Do you ever see yourself returning to Australia to live?
Maybe. Zack is American. We talk about spending time in Australia and America. I miss Australia, the bush. I'd love to live in the country. At the moment though, my life is deeply embedded in Israel. I like how I’m evolving here.
See – more energy than the sun! Thank you so much for your truths, Nat Kras, and we wish you all the best with your new play.