Trade Fair: Trainees break out of their shells at Market Theatre

Feedback from these performing arts trainees at last year’s inaugural Trade Fair was overwhelmingly positive. Some of the them will be back again this year.

Promises are so rarely kept in South Africa that we tend to view them more as suggestions than commitments, but The Market Theatre is being true to its word. The Arts Incubator Trade Fair is back for its second year, just as Market Theatre Foundation fundraiser Penny Morris said it would be.

The six day programme starting on Sunday, which sees the six publicly funded arts institutions and their trainees gathering in The Market Theatre’s new improved precinct, has a lot to do with the success of the inaugural Trade Fair they hosted in June last year.

Amazingly, it was the first time Pacofs, Artscape, The Playhouse, State Theatre, Market Theatre and the rejuvenated Windybrow had come together since their individual inceptions decades ago. And it was Morris’s idea that they do so in order to share ideas, discuss best practice, showcase their work to each other and the public. Like all great ideas, it seems incredible no-one thought of it before, or that their shared funder – the Department of Arts and Culture – never insisted on it. But it happened, and it’s happening again.

This year the Performing Arts Institutions (PAI’s to those fond of acronyms) are in the third year of their joint Incubator Fund grant from DAC, which is part of the Mzansi Golden Economy.

The Incubator Fund exists to invest in artists’ development by providing training through the PAIs, and exposure to the market. In other words, giving them the support to develop and stage work so they can stand on their own feet when they graduate from their institution’s incubator programme.

Which is why the trainees (all 89 of them) from the six institutions are given an easy lead-in from Monday to Friday as they take turns showing their work to their peers and the public. They are given a full day to get in, set up and do their tech run before their show. But on Saturday, when all eight shows from the institutions run back to back (Pacofs and Playhouse are bringing two each), they only have half an hour to get in, replicating real world festival situations and thus prepping them for the situation they would find at National Arts Festival or Klein Karoo Kunstefees, among others.

The upgraded Market Theatre precinct, with its numerous theatres, is the perfect place for this experience.

The trainees, some of whom attended last year’s inaugural Trade Fair, will also be treated to lectures and workshops during the week on subjects such as copyright, photography, storytelling, movement, and making work with the institution in their province.

Tied in with trips to the Johannesburg and Wits arts museums, the Apartheid Museum and the Olivetree Theatre in Alexandra, they’ll be getting a massive information download.

This is also thanks to leveraging R1.2m in funding from the DAC, with the Market Theatre contributing in kind in terms of venue, staging, lighting, and organisation.

While invaluable to the trainees, who get to meet their peers from other provinces, take inspiration from other work, learn and gain experience, the Trade Fair is also a treat for the public.

Tickets are deliberately kept low to afford access to as many people as possible, being a mere R30 per show. These include musicals, dance, and drama.

And to ensure the work is even better than what was staged last year, Market Theatre artistic director James Ngcobo travelled to each institution beforehand and picked the best of what’s on offer from their incubator programme.

It promises to be a great week, no fingers crossed.

The Trade Fair takes place at the Market Theatre from September 16 to 22. The Critter will be there.

This post is sponsored.


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