Boutique children's theater celebrates 10 years

Recognition for the Key Theater came slowly but surely, and these days it is much in demand.

key theater 88 224 (photo credit: )
key theater 88 224
(photo credit: )
To support himself while attending school, Avi Zlicha adopted an unusual profession. He became a storyteller. Zlicha was soon in demand and traveled all over the country telling Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to mesmerized children. His partner, Dikla Katz, recognized his unique talent and suggested they make a play. She wrote the script, he played all the parts. That was a decade ago. Today Katz and Zlicha are married and this year they celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Key Theater, a joint venture that puts on children's plays year round. This Hanukka, the two will put on four plays at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art between December 10-12. Treasure Island (December 10, 12) is still part of the roster, but it has changed over the years. Zlicha still plays Jim Hawkins, but the other characters, like Long John Silver and the evil Captain Flint, are all objects that come to life as the tale progresses. Each of the plays has a different theatrical language "primarily because we're interested in exploring the various languages," says Katz, who writes all the scripts, "but no less to let the children experience them. And we were right. They love it." The other plays in their repertoire came slowly. The Orange Shoe (December 11) is seven years old, and is based on the commedia dell'arte tradition. It is the story of shoemaker Arlecchino, Brighella, the Capitano and a remarkable shoe that appears one day on Arlecchino's doorstep. The Child Who Feared Nothing (December 10, 12) is five-years-old and uses puppets and pop-ups to tell the story of a fearless little boy who sets out to find fear. Baron Munchausen (December 12) uses visual theater effects to tell the story of a boastful baron and his amazing exploits. The original division of labor still holds, because "we do everything together," says Katz. "Every new production starts with brainstorming. Avi is the company's dramaturg. He usually brings the subject and then we start working on the play. We plan and design everything, including set and costumes, but we get professionals to help us with the execution. "We like working together. Of course we can and do disagree, but we know and respect each other's strengths, and always give each other room creatively." Katz and Zlicha have been together since she was a screenwriter freshman in the film school at Tel Aviv University in 1997. Zlicha was a senior in the theater department. One day between classes, he took a break from rehearsals and they met in the Mexico Building cafeteria. Today they are also the proud parents of Aya, who is nearly two. Recognition for the theater came slowly but surely, and these days it is much in demand. They play museums, community centers and festivals from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat, and now they're looking towards Europe. The future includes a puppet play for adults, inspired in part by Vampyr, the creepy and funny production that was a hit at last year's Israel Festival. They also plan to publish The Orange Shoe as a book "because after a performance, parents always ask us where they can buy the book," Katz explains. Seed money for the Key's first production came from their savings and family loans. They may get occasional funds from Mifal Hapayis (the state lottery fund), but the theater is still independent and will stay that way. Says Katz, "We compare ourselves to a boutique bakery, small and special."