Considering her free-flowing take on her profession, Maya Belsitzman seems like the perfect choice for artistic director of an eclectic children’s festival. Fortunately, that is exactly the case, with Belsitzman overseeing the programming of the Tzlilei Yaldut (Sounds of Childhood) Festival scheduled for the Holon Theater on October 11-13.
The three-day roster features a top-class production and workshop lineup that should have kids of all ages, and their adult escorts, thoroughly entertained and engaged. The performer cast includes the likes of veteran bassist-vocalist and songwriter Alon Oleartchik, and stellar pop duo Daniel Salomon and Dana Adini, as well as irrepressible musician-comic Tomer Sharon – aka Tomash – and a whole slew of top-draw musical and theatrical acts.
Belsitzman takes full responsibility for the breadth of the festival agenda and goes along with the idea that her program selections reflect her unbridled interest in the arts in general.
“I am not just a cellist and a singer. I engage in music in the broadest sense. Music is important for all sorts of areas of the arts. I wanted to bring music [to the festival] from all sorts of directions, including classical music.”
She clearly has no intention of talking down to her junior audiences, and has gone for broke on all fronts. One pretty remarkable slot, for example, features the Israel Camerata Jerusalem orchestra, and its founder, music director Avner Biron, who also happens to be a trained scientist.
The show is called In the Footsteps of the Invisible Song, which is described as “a musical journey into the recesses of the brain.” That may sound a little heavy on the cerebral side. In fact the performance plot, devised and directed by accomplished multidisciplinary artist Yonatan Blumenfeld, and overseen by Belsitzman herself, is a multifarious offering of theatrical sketches and intriguing readings of scores that run the gamut from Handel and Bach through to rock and pop icons David Bowie and Britney Spears. If anyone had any doubts about Belsitzman’s wall-to-wall approach to the arts, this show will surely settle that issue once and for all.
“Yonatan wrote a wonderful production that looks at how music affects the brain,” she explains, quickly adding that things are not going to get overly intellectual in Holon. “I would like the children to go home with an impression of the play-based experience.”
It is, she says, very much about conveying not only the material per se but also the whole atmosphere and magic of seeing the staged end result of the creative process unfold before their very eyes.
“As a child I had the great privilege of being able to go to lots of concerts, shows, dance productions, exhibitions and all kinds of things,” she recalls. “It is obvious to me that the fact that, today, I work in art is largely down to the fact that, as a kid, I was exposed to rich and varied cultural content.”
She is hopeful that the Holon festival will, at least to some degree, have a similar effect.
“As far as I am concerned, if even one child goes back home with a desire to play music, sing or go to hear more and more concerts, I will have done my job.”
She feels that keenly as a parent herself.
“My daughter is three and a half years old, and I see how going to all these shows impacts on her.”
Naturally, the youngster is in a more privileged position than most, and gets to witness some of the behind-the-scenes machinations too.
“My daughter is musical not because of any musical genes but because she goes to so many shows. She knows what a sound check is,” Belsitzman laughs. “She understands which shows she has to sit quietly in, and she knows when to applaud. That’s because she has been experiencing all of this from a very young age.”
Naturally, it is not so much a matter of quantity, but quality. That is available in spades in Holon next week, right across the board. At the age of 36, Belsitzman is just about old enough to remember the pre-Internet age when entertainment and cultural consumption meant, almost exclusively, actually leaving the house to go to some venue and catch a live performance.
I wondered whether today’s virtual digital world means she and her counterparts have to work that much harder to bring the younger crowd into auditoria.
“Even with the whole Internet culture, sitting in a hall as the lights go down and watching a concert or show is a very different thing. Being in the actual auditorium is a powerful experience.”
The idea is also very much to get the kids actively on board. Anyway, you can’t expect small children to sit still for too long. The workshop side of the program should help in that respect. There are the likes of affable doyen of the Israeli comics and caricature sector Uri Fink, best known for the Zbeng! comic book series, who will oversee a kiddies’ hands on session called “Lets Write an Adventure Story.” Sounds enticing.
The down-and-dirty itinerary also includes a creative slot under the aegis of Etzbaoni, which, we are told, is one of the world’s three oldest children’s newspaper. At 70 years old and in robust readership health, Etzbaoni has much to be proud of, and much to offer with its beguiling mix of games, riddles and thought-process developing fare.
While Belsitzman is looking to draw a child or two deeper into the world of music and the performing arts, the Lets Put Together a Children’s Newspaper workshop may produce a budding journalist or two.
When it comes to riveting onstage action, the Noya Schlein show has got most of the beat. The musician and latter-day writer will present her Home of the Drum spectacle based on her new eponymous book and featuring a dizzying array of percussive instruments and objects dotted around a domestic living room setting. The multidisciplinary production sees Schlein keep the beat going while she reads excerpts from her book with relevant illustrations screened for the audience’s illumination and appreciation.
The festival also dips into some wholesome yesteryear domains, particularly the singalong session with TV personality Einat Sarouf, while the Tomer Sharon Alilot Pettel VeIshon Layla (Raspberry Tales and Deep in the Night) musical story-based show should have the kids duly riveted and, no doubt, wide-eyed with wonderment.
Belsitzman hopes the young patrons and their parents will not just drop by the Holon Theater.
“Kids can just come for one show, have a good time and go back home. That can happen anytime. Coming and being part of something that runs over three days, that is something special.”
If the artistic director’s career path is anything to go by, after imbibing all that childhood culture herself, she may very well be on to a winner.
For tickets and more information: (03) 502-3001 and tzlilei-yaldut-col.il