In Despair Over Politics, Theater Turns Inward

‘Why I Killed My Mother,’ which has a happy ending, to open Teatronetto festival in Jaffa on Thursday.

Gerard Alon

The 24th International Teatronetto theater festival, founded by Yaakov Agmon, opens Thursday with a variety of shows that fascinate, even if only because of their highly personal writing. The three-day festival includes eight competing shows and several guest performances that will be presented in theaters in the old city of Jaffa, mainly the Jaffa Theater and Hasimta. This year, too, students will present the outdoor performances in the open plaza in the old city of Jaffa, but after years in which the students of Kibbutzim College did so, this year the performers will be students of the Academy of the Performing Arts in Tel Aviv, directed by Avraham Oz.

The theme of this year’s outdoor performances is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. Besides the outdoor performances, there will also be intimate concerts and jazz shows in art galleries and artists’ homes, as well as walking tours of Jaffa.

Agmon believes that this variety of personally-themed plays is a seismograph of the national situation and mood. “This year, I can say that there’s a feeling that people wanted to say something that wasn’t political,” he says. “After all, there is no way I requested it — Teatronetto is completely open. I don’t determine the topics, as I sometimes did at Habima when I thought it was necessary to respond to a phenomenon, an event. Then we saw that there were years when the direction was much more political. It depends on people’s troubles. If I look at the actual political situation and the total despair, it’s clear to me that the political issue is not on the immediate agenda. People are turning inward. What’s more interesting is the personal struggle,” he says.

Besides festival director Agmon, the artistic committee that chose this year’s performances included Hava Ortman, Daniela Michaeli and Ravit Davra. The composition of the judges’ committee is secret, with the members’ names to be revealed only after the festival is over and the Best Play prize, named for Nissim Azikri and sponsored by the Yehoshua Rabinowitz Tel Aviv Foundation for the Arts, is announced.

Confessional genre

The opening show of the festival, “Why I Killed My Mother,” by Dor Zweigenbaum, is from the confessional genre. This show, directed by Hanoch Daum, exposes the audience to Zweigenbaum’s complicated relationship with his mother in an entertaining monologue full of ups and downs. The main character in this sharp, ironic show takes the guilt on itself. Still, in a certain sense, this is a story with a happy ending — the speaker decides to create for the theater. It is an appropriate start for a festival of more confessions about relationships with parents and other personal trials.

Haim Deri, who performs in “Cinema B’Lira” (directed by Dana Kayla and Ayelet Kochavi Samselik), takes a compassionate approach when he tells about his childhood, which was rich spiritually if not materially, in Jaffa during the 1960s. The hero of the show is his father, who loved to go out in the city, and who loved women. After his beloved wife died of an illness, he had to raise Deri, who was seven years old at the time. As in the film Cinema Paradiso, the young Deri grew up with a love for film and for life, and did not know he was living in poverty.

Nitzan Cohen put his heart into directing the show “Regarding the Bird.” This is a monologue of a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, which afflicts his own son. Cohen also wrote the show, and actor Shlomi Bertonov performs it.

Another show that is not in the competition, “Shayechet” (“Belonging”), tells the story of Yehudit Harman, one of the victims of cult leader Goel Ratzon, and is based on her diaries, and is directed by Eliran Caspi and features Liraz Hamami.

Gerard Alon