An eight-day community theatre festival runs in Johannesburg, South Africa May 31-June 7, 2009. In its 20th year and held at the Market Theatre Laboratory, this year’s festival features the works of 30 groups alongside workshops in writing, directing, playmaking, design and administration, besides the introduction of a professional section through which five plays that have been on the Lab stage before (but were not produced for the Market Theatre) return on a special evening season and two performance of each are seen each night (June 1-5, 2009). OGOVA ONDEGO reports.
“Our intentions for this year’s festival are to highlight how far we have come as an organisation, while also highlighting the immense strides that community based arts have taken. We deliberately downsized the number of the groups in the festival to put more focus on the plays that have the potential to be produced professionally,” says Matjamela Motloung, the new head of the Market Theatre Lab.
Motloung says some of the groups that will showcase their work include TKO Theatre Organisation from Bronkhoorspruit with their new work, “You Pushed Me”, The Living Newspaper Theatre Group of Soweto presenting “In Dieted”, KwaMhlaga’s Zivuseni Theatre Group presenting “One Day”,and Soul Lab Media of Johannesburg’s “Conversation with a snake”.
Saying “this year’s festival promises to be breaking new ground and hopes to advance the development of Community Based Theatre Arts”, Motloung adds, “The Market Theatre Laboratory has been a catalyst of change and development over the past 19 years and has consistently produced work and artists that have gone on to capture the imagination of the world.”
Some of the recent plays and artists that have graced the Community Theatre Festival include Babuyile Theatre Group’s “13”, directed by award-wining and internationally-acclaimed Mncedisi Shabangu and “Thursday’s Child” (declared hit of the festival at the Linz Festival 2009) written and directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Winner, Ntshieng Mokgoro, “Coal Yard”,Â co-directed by Prince Lamla and Ohentse Bodibe, and the only play done in Sepedi by any theatre in South Africa, “Sekwatlapa”, directed by Marlon Khoza and “Go a Phelwa” which was presented by Ratang Bana Recreational Arts Company.
The festival has also featured many South African actors like Kenneth Nkosi of the hit movies White Wedding, Oscar-winning Tsotsi and audience-pleasing Jerusalema, Mduduzi Mabaso of the hit TV series Rhythm City, international movies Blood Diamond, and Hotel Rwanda.
Some of the plays that have been confirmed for the special section, the professional ’20th Anniversary Legacy Programme’, include Mncedisi Shabangu’s “Ka-Nyamazane”,Â New face Theatre Group’s internationally acclaimed “Boom Gate”, andÂ Jeff Tshabalala’s “Ityala Lomhlawulo”.
“We are bringing these plays to the festival to afford them an opportunity to be viewed by the broader arts community, and it would be great if not only the producers and artistic director of the Market Theatre came to see them but were also extending the invitation to The State Theatre, Windybrow, Wits Theatre, and all other producing or independent producers to come check these plays out” says Oscar Motsikoe, the Lab’s administrator.
Some of the leading artists that are lined up to run the workshops include Xoli Norman, Kenneth Nkosi, Dan Robberste, Mpho J Molepo, Oscar Motsikoe and Nomvula Molepo.
Funded by the National Lottery Distribution and Trust Fund and the Arts and Culture Trust Breadline Africa Programme, the performance times of the festival are: 31st May Launch 18h30 for 19h00,1st -5th June 9am – 15h30 Community Theatre Festival Performances.
17h30 & 19h00 20th Anniversary Legacy Showcase
6th June Â Â Â 9am – 18h00 Community Theatre Festival
7th June Â Â Â 10am- Community Theatre Festival and Closing Ceremony.