Some of the Arts Incubator’s Trade Fair participants during visit to Constitution Hill. The support they expressed for each other at the awards evening was heartwarming. Photo: Market Theatre Facebook page.
It was a blast. Apparently. Everyone said so, and I certainly enjoyed it.
Talking about the Art Incubator’s Trade Fair that happened at the Market Theatre campus this past week.
“I’ve loved it,” said Nicoleen Louw, sincerely.
An arts coordinator at Playhouse Company in Durban, Louw is one of many who do the hard grind behind the stage. As someone who does not receive applause, Louw is not one to enthuse without cause.
From an institutional perspective, she said the Trade Fair, which wrapped up with a celebratory awards evening on Saturday night, was “a wonderful networking opportunity”.
“We’ve all been islands for a very long time,” she said, referring to the fact that those working at Playhouse, Artscape, Market Theatre, SA State Theatre and Pacofs have since the dawn of their establishments largely worked within their own confines and have never all come together to exchange ideas, meet and mingle in one place.
“I’ve seen a huge difference with my dancers and actors in residency programmes,” said Louw, “they don’t even sit with each other anymore, they sit with others.”
This meeting and mingling with artists from other institutions was great, she said, as once they finished their incubator programme, these were the people they would have to “go out and work with”.
From a personal perspective, Louw said the Trade Fair reminded her “why I do what I do”. Being surrounded by people who shared the same enthusiasm and passion for the performing arts was energising.
“It’s really changed a lot of my thinking and I want to get back to being creative.”
“One thing I love is it’s (Trade Fair) opening up opportunities to experience the workplace. Not just the acting but sound and lighting as well,” said Market Theatre Laboratory student Dibona Mokubung.
Having spent part of the week assisting in setting up the stage for the Playhouse Company’s superbly choreographed and fantastically lit dancework If The World Was Listening, Mokubung said the experience broadened his focus.
“I no longer wanna do only acting. On some productions I wanna be behind the scenes.
“I’ve met people from elsewhere and seen opportunities for collaboration,” he said.
And Julia Hosmer, one of the accomplished young dancers peforming in If The World Was Listening, said her time at the Trade Fair had been “food for the soul”.
Hosmer said she enjoyed the structure of the programme in which practical lectures provided “advice you can use in the real world”.
Expressing similar sentiments as Nicoleen Louw, Hosmer said being surrounded by people who shared the same passion, energy and drive as you do provided affirmation of the path you’d chosen.
The awards ceremony was certainly celebratory. It put the Naledis, SAMAs and Fleur du Caps collectively to shame.
After an inspiring speech/monologue/outpouring/delivery from Dorothy Anne Gould who gave a succinct lesson in not only living a successful life in theatre but a successful life full stop, the announcement of each award to one of the nine competing productions elicited fulsome praise from the entire group of 100-plus incubatees who had a hand in the stake.
Gould, who admitted she believed she was “emotionally incontenent”, having cried, laughed, gasped and sat on the edge of her chair as one of the judges of the nine productions showcased this week, quoted from Fugard and Roberston Davies, urging the participants, and us all who were sitting there, to live from the heart.
She reminded the theatremakers they are part of a tradition that goes back to ancient Greece. Stepping into the “sacred space” of the stage and telling other people’s stories was a great responsibility, she said. It was about “opening your heart” to “create awareness of someone else’s suffering”.
The ability to recognise someone else’s suffering was what made us “more human” and “all of us as artists” were “in a fight to claim humanity”.
Veteran actor John Kani, was, of course, also a consummate speaker.
Encouraging the participants with a brief story of performing his first show, with a cast of eight, to an audience of six in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, and then taking the R3 from ticket sales (50c ea) to buy beer which the cast shared with the audience afterward, he said word got out that if you went to watch one of their shows there would be beer afterwards.
Kani said in the ‘50s being an actor was not even considered a profession, but now there were opportunities the Trade Fair participants should “grasp with both hands”.
“This Trade Fair provides an opportunity that when a production is at the Market Theatre it can go to Artscape, Playhouse, Pacofs… instead of only appearing in your little corner with four people in the audience.
“These are the opportunities we need but you must take responsibility for your own destiny,” he urged.
Kani thanked the Department of Arts and Culture for providing opportunities with what little money they had in the midst of economic recession, but gave a lighthearted warning that now that they had seen the Incubator Fund and Trade Fair works, they’d have to carry on funding it.
Stepping up to speak for the DAC, deputy director-general Monica Newtown balanced passion and pragmatism.
As a bureaucrat sitting apart from party political machinations currently tearing apart the ruling party, and the country with it, Newton praised the “extraordinary passion” young theatremakers have, of their ability to “find a voice, to have an opinion”.
“It is important to have a viewpoint, even if other people don’t like it. The performing arts gives and opportunity to communicate that viewpoint to an audience.”
She said they could take advantage of funding initiatives within the National Arts Council and Mzansi Golden Economy but warned that “in my world you are competitors, and it is a very competitive world”.
“Own your development. Perfect your craft and learn about the world you’re in, learn to write proposals.”
She said it was “incredibly inspiring” to see that “the paper I push from one side of my desk to the other realises itself, and you pop up”.
Newton also said the Incubator Programme “will continue” and the Trade Fair, “will continue”.
Thereafter, the Ramolao Makhene theatre erupted into an organised chaos of celebration as the awards were announced.
Although, as Kani said, everyone who had “made it to this point” was “already a winner”, awards dictated a logic of their own.
Best Script: Everyone Has It, from Artscape.
Best Design: Gogoa Mamoya, from Pacofs.
Best Direction: Luthando Mngomezulu, for Isithunzi, from the Market Theatre Foundation.
Best Stage Manager: Mdi Simphiwe for Gogoa Mamoya, Pacofs.
Best Choreography: Sandile Mkhize, If the World Was Listening, Playhouse Company.
Special Merit: Dancers Debora Pomple and Victor Moroe in Gogoa Mamoya, Pacofs
Best Performer, Female: Boitumelo Mohutsioa and Saree van Coppenhagen in Steke, Pacofs.
Best Perfomer, Male: Dumisani Siziba in Everyone Has It, Artscape Theatre.
Special Merit: Torsten Rybka in Speaking From Experience, SA State Theatre.
Special Merit: Alfred Mothlapi in Itsoseng, Windybrow Arts Centre.
Best Production: Isithunzi, produced by the Market Theatre.
Keep an eye out for them, they’ve got something to say, and they’ll make a trip out of the hearing of it.