Uri Omanuti and cast members 521.
(photo credit: Kfir Bolotin)
While he may not, as of yet, have any first-hand experience of the ins and outs
of what makes little ones tick, Uri Omanuti takes his role as a children’s
theater show director very seriously. “I only got married last week,” explains
the 35 year old, half-apologetically.
Omanuti is currently overseeing the
final rehearsals of Father of Amelia is Going to Australia, which will be
performed at the Haifa Theater as part of this year’s Haifa Children’s Theater
Festival (April 8-10).
Mind you, the director is perfectly happy to take
notes from his colleagues with a hands-on track record. “Avigail Arieli and
Sharon Tzur [who play the mother and father in the production] are both parents,
and I get tips from them the whole time about certain things that children do
and don’t do,” admits Omanuti.
“In fact, at one of the rehearsals Naama
Shitreet [who plays the eponymous little girl] said something about how Amelia
might do something, but Avigail and Sharon told her that isn’t the way it
It’s good to have people around with a grasp of how things
The play is based on a book by Eshkol Nevo, and tells the
story of a little girl called Amelia whose father goes away to Australia for a
week, and how she and her mother cope with his absence. The production, which is
aimed at the three to nine-year-old age group, has been a long time in the
“It is a very complex work,” says the director. “We added
subplots in order to turn this little book into a complete show.” But why work
so hard to extend such brief material when there must be plenty of full-scale
tomes to work with? It appears that the motivation for the project is based on a
mixture of professional considerations and personal taste.
“First of all
because of the quality of the book, but also because Lior’s (playwright Lior
Greti) daughter liked the book so much,” Omanuti explains.
feels there are plenty of pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from the story. “It’s a
charming story and it’s a sort of school for mothers,” he says. “The mother in
the book has to be very creative in order to keep her daughter amused and
occupied while the father is away.”
The show, he says, may also offer an
opportunity to address other emotional or social issues. “I think it looks at
things like separation-anxiety and, of course, how to cope with missing someone
While the storyline portrays age-old sentiments, Omanuti says
the format is very much about the here and now.
“There is a laptop
computer in the middle of the living room set. We want the children to also be
able to relate to what happens on the stage in terms that they can identify
At the end of the day, we’re talking about theater, and about
entertainment, and the eye-opening elements to the production are secondary to
the enjoyment Omanuti hopes the youngsters - and their parents - will glean from
Father of Amelia is Going to Australia.
“This is not a difficult story
for the audience to digest,” says Omanuti.
“This is a fun play and I was
taken on to direct it because I am known for handling comic material, and I was
keen to bring amusing features and music to the venture. There are a lot of
laughs in this show and I think everyone will have a good time.”
plenty of textural interplay between the spoken word and musical interludes in
the production, too. “This is not a musical but I felt it was very important to
have as much music as possible in this show,” explains the director. “I also
wanted the music to be touching and moving, and I think that just on that level
we deserve a prize. I am very happy to work with [Vertigo dance company artistic
director] Ran Bagno.
He is one of the leading musicians today in theater.
He has done a great job with this show.”
Omanuti says that, above all, he
was keen to provide quality. “There are lots of kids’ shows on the market today
which offer entertainment with no depth – which don’t demand too much thinking
or involvement from the audience, and the audience applauds and smiles, and
that’s that,” says Omanuti. “But there aren’t too many children’s shows which
tell a story which is even a little bit melancholy, and emotive, and
heartwarming too. These are timeless elements which, if presented well and with
sensitivity, I think will always move an audience.”
is hopeful that Father of Amelia is Going to Australia will move the Haifa
Children’s Theater Festival jury too, as the play is one of six in the
festival’s competition selection. The other entries include Corduroy, by Shahar
Merom and produced by Jerusalem-based Train Theater; The Lost Socks Land by Shai
Lahav and Yoni Zicholtz; and Fool Moon – The Chelem Legend, written by Galia
Levy-Grad, who stars in the show.
The festival program also includes
shows for the two-three-year-old age group, and productions from Spain.