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Nava Semel

The Child Behind the Eyes

(הילד מאחורי העיניים)

Yonatan Esterkin

First Slovenian production
Opening September 2019



Director Yonatan Esterkin

Nava Semel (1954 ̶ 2017) is considered one of the most successful Israeli as well as internationally renowned writers, playwrights, librettists and translators. Her novels were translated into several foreign languages. As a writer she won many awards. In 1996, she received the Israeli Prime Minister’s Award for Literature, as well as the Women Writers of the Mediterranean Award in France (1994). In 2007 she was lauded »The Women of the Year in Literature of the City of Tel Aviv«. Her most acclaimed novel And the Rat Laughed was published in 2001. It was adapted into an opera libretto which ran successfully for many years at the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv as well as in Toronto, Canada. A movie version is currently in the making.
The Child Behind the Eyes was written in 1986. It presents a monologue of a woman who, without knowing, gave birth to a baby with Down's syndrome. She has a happy marriage; her four-year-old firstborn girl is healthy. The birth of a boy with Down’s syndrome changes her family life completely. Maya is telling her story on the eve of her son Yotam’s first school day. This is a moment when she will have to release him from the safe shelter of the family into the world of independence and cruelty, captured in the attitude of the healthy to the mentally challenged.
The world outside the family is cruel and unyielding. Some of their friends abandon the family for good, the others distance themselves, the neighbours are dismayed and cross the street hastily when they see the boy; few are ready to embrace him and come to terms with the fact that the child is handicapped and different on the outside, while being genuinely gentle and warm, exactly the same as healthy people. Embarrassed to call him by his first name, they prefer referring to him as »that child«. Similarly, his father David (and Maya’s husband) shuts himself off egotistically, devoting his spare time to running, thereby overcoming his discomfort. It was the recently departed Maya’s grandma who managed to establish an authentic and sincere relation with her great grandson.
With the first school day approaching, the boy’s mother is determined to spare her six-year-old son from future embarrassment, ridicule and injustice, awaiting him on his way to adulthood. This, alas, is her wishful thinking, while reality proves to be different.
The play premiered in 1987 at the Haifa Municipal Theatre where it ran for as many as eleven years, totalling more than one thousand repeat performances. In 1988, it won the Play of the Year Award which was followed by the Best Production of the Year in 1989. For many years, it remained a staple feature of the repertoire of various theatres internationally, as well as a feature play at many radio stations. In Austria, it won the best radio play award. It was staged in Austria, Belgium, France, Romania, Italy, the USA, Poland, Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, the Netherlands. Significantly, it was performed in Arabic in Israel in 2006.
Our production will be the first staging of a play by Nava Semel in Slovenia and the first Slovenian translation of her work.

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