The Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival is one of the most important children’s theater festivals in Israel and is an international celebration of over 100 plays and performances from Israel and around the world. Founded over 20 years ago, the festival is annually held during the Intermediary Days of the Festival of Passover. During the three days of the festival, visitors can see many original plays and performances aimed specifically at children, as well as dozens of plays that are regularly performed in theaters throughout the country. The festival has become a magnet for children’s theater groups from Israel and many different countries. A major component in the festival program is the presentation of plays for all of the various ethnic and religious groups in Israel; thus, the repertoire includes plays in Arabic and plays especially designed for an ultra-Orthodox Jewish audience. Among the festival’s goals are the development of children’s theater in Israel, improvement in the level of play-writing for children and the encouragement and showcasing of original Israeli plays. To further this last goal, the festival annually holds a competition between new children’s plays that are performed for the very first time at the festival.
The Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival is a celebration for both children and their parents. In the technological age of television and the Internet, great importance should be attached to the writing of children’s plays and to the provision to children of the opportunity to come into first-hand contact with, and personally experience, the theater world; thus, the festival’s organizers constantly strive to innovate and to change the festival format. Over the years, the festival has adopted various themes. For example, in 2010, to celebrate the festival’s 20th anniversary, the grounds took on the appearance of one huge birthday party, while, in 2011, the festival’s program was devoted to the works of celebrated Israeli author and poet, Lea Goldberg: the grounds were decorated as “Lea’s Garden” and actors and actresses dressed as characters from Goldberg’s works mingled among the festival’s visitors.
Each year, five to eight original plays compete in the festival’s annual children’s plays competition. This year one of the plays will be “Mozart’s Magic,” that aims at ages 4-10 and which describes the young Mozart and the members of his family against the backdrop of his immense talents. The musical “Euphoria, the Happiest City in the World,” for ages 6-12, is the story of a little boy who moves with his family to the happiest city on earth; refusing to comply with the city’s strict rules of happiness, he rebels. An additional play in the competition is the musical comedy, “Gold, Onions and None of the Rest,” for children aged five and over. “Small Sea” is a puppet theater where the action takes place in an aquarium; the protagonists are two small fish that set out on a thrilling, dangerous but also comical adventure that unfolds wholly underwater.
In the non-competitive part of the program, visitors can attend performances of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Peter and the Wolf” in Arabic. In a Spanish play, “Ferdinand and I,” objects and characters tell the tale of Father Ferdinand who wants to smell flowers in the damp fields and does not want to be a warrior like the others. In addition to the plays, there will be street performances, including “Wandering Legends, a workshop for the construction and manipulation of giant puppets inspired by fairy tales. “Air Time,” which comes all the way from Spain, is a celebration of balloons: An ancient machine for blowing up balloons turns them into living beings and the result is a concert of living objects creating a magic world. There will also be street performances from Israel as well as from Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Portugal, France, Germany and other countries.