Leveling with kids

‘Yotam and Yaeli,’ showing at the Mediatheque, continues the Grips Theater’s tradition of presenting children’ stories in an age-appropriate manner.

kids theater 521 (photo credit: Benny Gam Zu Letova)
kids theater 521
(photo credit: Benny Gam Zu Letova)
The choice of the forthcoming Roni Pinkovitch production, as well as the venue – the Mediatheque Theater in Holon – are entirely fitting. Holon has for some time now served as a sort of a “children’s capital” of Israel, with, in addition to the Mediatheque Theater, its children’s museum and countless activities and forms of entertainment specifically tailored to the needs and tastes of junior audiences. The play, Yotam and Yaeli, which will premiere next Saturday (11 a.m.), is perfect for the younger crowd and is based on an earlier work presented at one of the world’s leading vehicles for entertaining children and enriching their cultural life.
“It is informed by a play by Ludwig Volker called Max und Milli,” explains Pinkovitch, who is the director of the new production in addition to serving as artistic director of the Mediatheque Theater. “I have known about Volker’s work for quite a few years,” he continues, adding that he and his colleagues do not shy away inside the protective confines of their institution, confining themselves to the structured, safe world of make-believe.
“We call this whole Mediatheque complex a forum for learning, in which we all learn about ourselves, about art, but also about reality in Israel. That pertains to the complex social reality in which we all live,” he says.
Hence the choice to put on the show of Yotam and Yaeli. “This is not a grandiose play; it is a modest production that looks at the conflict between how children perceive reality and [how] their parents see it.”
Pinkovitch says the home of the original German play provides him with the requisite inspiration. “Grips [children’s theater in Berlin] manages to address issues from the world of children in a deep and serious way.”
That means, Pinkovitch believes, that adults have to reconnect with the child in themselves and to reconnect with their own childhood. It also involves setting adult judgmental attitudes to one side and adopting a more accepting, childlike ethos.
“When you touch on some truth, it is the pure truth,” he notes. “This play touches on some truth, and it is not for or against anything. In this play, everyone is right. There is a universal truth to this play, and it clearly conveys the idea that children view reality in a different light. Children simply understand the world differently. An adult can plead his case until the cows come home but it won’t make any difference,” he says.
Yotam and Yaeli presents the stark reality of the generational divide. “The mother in the play forbids her children to play with guns,” explains Pinkovitch. “Her son swaps his bicycle for a toy gun and she remonstrates him for giving another boy an expensive bike, which she worked so hard to save for, and her son simply says: ‘but I want a gun more than I want a bike.’ That’s his truth.”
There is a deeper message to be had here, as well as, possibly, some political import. “This is a social play, but not in the sense of tackling a basic social issue,” the director observes. “It also establishes peace between the children and the adults, by virtue of the fact that they accept and recognize the differences between them – not because one side manages to enforce its opinions on the other. The adults realize that they can’t turn their children into adults, and they all understand they simply have to live together.”
There are five characters in Yotam and Yaeli – a single mother and her two children, a recently remarried father and his son. The two families come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and each has its own approach to life. The cast consists of Naama Amit, Dan Kiezler, Harel Morad, Gila Politzer and Itzik Golan, and the soundtrack was written by Ran Bagno.
One of the tenets of the Grips Theater, from which septuagenarian Volker recently retired, is to present children’s stories in a child-friendly manner. This is something in which Pinkovitch also believes firmly.
Pinkovitch also has his fingers in several other worthy causes designed to enrich and enhance the world of the child. In addition to presenting junior audiences with quality theatrical entertainment, the Mediatheque Theater addresses the cultural requirements of children with special needs. The institution has run a project for children with autism and intellectual disabilities for some years and presents productions for children with special needs and their families.
There is more where that came from.
“The general idea is to continually extend access to the theater to populations with all sorts of difficulties and disadvantages,” Pinkovitch explains.
“The next stage is to adopt groups of children who do not have some particular disability, but they have all sorts of emotional or financial shortcomings.
That covers children from junior clubs, orphans, neglected children and children at risk.”
And the children won’t just sit back passively and enjoy the Mediatheque’s offerings. “There will be productions for them, but also workshops,” Pinkovitch continues. “Also, all our dress rehearsals will be open to these children. We have the means to do that. In any case, we have rehearsals, so why not offer these children a glimpse of what goes on in the world of theater? I believe that the theater should act as a home for all children.”
Even with the best intentions in the world, there are some logistics to be addressed. “It’s not always so simple to bring the kids to the theater,” he admits. “It is sometimes a matter of proffering to them what we do and then trying to find a way to bring them here, but we’ll solve all those problems too. Besides that, the Mediatheque Center is a lovely building and there’s a lot to see here. Coming here could change the children’s lives.”
For tickets and more information about Yotam and Yaeli and the Mediatheque: (03) 502-1552 and www.mediatheque.org.il.