Jerusalem train theater makes short trip to new performance hall
When the Train Theater in Jerusalem opened in 1981, the puppet theater stood in a repurposed railroad car parked in Liberty Bell Park, a nine-acre park named after its replica of the Philadelphia Bell.
This same wagon, now slightly shorter and freshly painted, has a new home inside the park: the Karon Theater complex was officially opened in August and fully completed just before Chanukah.
Karon is the Hebrew word for a train car, which harkens back to the roots of this creative and imaginative children’s theater. The new complex, located next to the park’s skate area, basketball courts and playgrounds and funded by the British Davidson family, looks like children’s building blocks thrown to the ground.
Once inside, theatergoers can head to one of the many theaters, including a grassy outdoor amphitheater, a simple black box-style theater that seats around 50 people, and the larger theater, located downstairs. , with rows of folding seats that can be closed and closed at the touch of a button.
Backstage are simple changing rooms and storage rooms for theater actors, with each small-scale tale folded into small trunks and suitcases neatly placed on the metal shelves.
The main building is also home to a new exhibit created by the puppeteers and creators of the Karon Theater, featuring smart mobiles and dioramas fitted with moving parts and pieces that engage younger viewers, reminding them of performances they have seen or might. see in the future.
Although this new space is a much larger and more permanent space than the previous incarnation of the Karon Theater, it still retains its spirit of creativity and wonder.
For the new CEO Kobi Frig, this new complex is just the start of his big plans for the Karon.
He wants to foster greater connections between the theater and its surrounding grounds, as well as bridges – both virtual and real – between Karon and the nearby Khan and Jerusalem Theaters, the Hansen House Cultural Center and the wide open spaces of Bloomfield Gardens. nearby and the first station, all within walking distance of Liberty Bell Park.
“It’s a theater that grew with Jerusalem,” said Frig, a cultural entrepreneur who has worked on events and productions in Jerusalem for more than a decade. “It makes sense that we create something bigger here. “
In 1981, the original wheelless theater train car cost 3,000 shekels, which was not a small amount of money at the time, said Hadass Ophrat, one of the original founders, in a video made in 2011 for the theater’s 30th anniversary.
The theater was created thanks to the collaboration of four independent puppeteers: Michael Schuster, Alina Ashbel, Ophrat and Mario Kotliar. It was Schuster, of American descent, who discovered the wagon by chance and offered to use it for shows, doing most of the renovations with his fellow puppeteers.
The theater has become a source of innovative puppetry in Israel with plays created for children but with dialogues and concepts aimed at adult audiences. In 1983, it hosted the International Puppet Theater Festival every summer, inviting artists from around the world to perform on the local stage.
The Jerusalem Foundation ultimately helped fund the construction of a permanent 70-seat theater in the park.
The Train Theater has grown to create the International Puppet Theater Festival, School of Visual Theater and HaZira Performance Art, all local institutions still dedicated to interdisciplinary experimental work.
“It was the start of a large outdoor community center for the city,” Ophrat said. “There was a freedom that wasn’t about marketing or money.”
Frig shares that same kind of energy and desire to spread the magic that the Train Theater has always offered.
He wants young theatergoers to attend performances and participate in workshops at the new site, and also wants to attract teenagers and older children. He hopes to have performances in Arabic, add more weekly clown and puppet activities, and expand the reach of the stage.
“This is really just the start,” Frig said. “There are a lot of options now that we’re here. “