“Art should play an integral role in influencing urban areas but unfortunately there’s not enough funding to support artists or art institutions to be able to do that,”
A production by Wits drama students, The Village, will be on at the 969 Festival next week. The 969 Festival runs from 13-24 July at the Wits Theatre, giving Johannesburg audiences the opportunity to see shows straight from the stages of the National Arts Festival.
Joburgers looking for a taste of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival have until Sunday to plunge into 969 festival at the Wits Theatre.
The festival showcases 20 of the top performances from art festivals main stages as well as the fringe.
Wits Theatre director Gita Pather called 969 festival a success with sold out performances all week. She said organising the festival is a lot of hard work but her job is made easier because she selects productions only from the Grahamstown festival to bring to Wits.
“This university is about collaboration, about pushing the boundaries of the work we do in whatever we do … and the Wits Theatre is about providing an incubator for new talent,” Pather said.
One of the key changes made this year was moving 969 festival closer to the national event in Grahamstown.
Pather said this year’s festival gained a unique aspect because it has been filled with immensely talented people and different plays which had a mix of dance, drama, physical theatre and stand-up comedy. “I think all theatres and all festivals reflect their artistic directors and their particular bent towards the arts,” said Pather.
One of the productions for the 969 festival, Hamlet directed by Jenine Collocott, had its first performance on Wednesday night with a good turnout. Collocott describes the play as a comedia delighte of the Shakespearean Hamlet.
Hamlet is a 35-minute performance which consists of comedy, physical theatre, and improvisation which is stylistically inspired by the story of Hamlet. It features actors James Cairns, Jaques De Silva and Taryn Bennett.
A student production, Ira, is a physical theatre performance which explores the strange nature of human emotions and how we express or supress them.
It is directed by Wits drama students Daniel Geddes and Mark Tatham. Geddes said he felt good about performing in this year’s 969 festival as it was his first time.
“It’s exciting and it’s also nice to have that it is also recognised in a bigger platform outside of student work,” he said.
They have also recently performed at film festivals in Grahamstown and Pretoria but Geddes says he is glad to be home at Wits because he enjoys the support of his peers.
“It’s nice coming back to Wits where your peers are kind of keen to see it,” Geddes said.
The 969 Festival was originally funded by the Johannesburg Development Agency and Wits University to give locals the opportunity to experience the national arts festival without traveling the 969 kilometres to Grahamstown.
It all began with two encounters – a fictional encounter, complicated by a peculiarly South African issue. And an encounter on a real-life level, which brought about a “mingling of different colours”.Two students, who were no more than acquaintances before, had to work intimately together this month to create a piece of physical theatre about a relationship between two characters. But not just any two people. 56 Mocha Street follows the tensions between an interracial couple.
Emma Tollman and Oupa Lesne Sibeko, 3rd year Drama, choreographed the piece based on their own experiences.
The two characters encounter one another in 56 Mocha Street, their home and space. Here they delve into the tensions between how society perceives interracial relationships and how they perceive themselves after being affected by society, said Sibeko.
Apart from the obvious racial tensions – between their characters and, potentially, the two of them – the actors described what it was like to have to work together for the first time. “I remember doing a back-to-back improvisation and Oupa’s body felt so foreign to me,” said Tollman.
How the piece was created
In creating the piece, the two took inspiration from their physical theatre class. It was about discovering “who we are in the class, personally and in the relationship”, said Sibeko. The name 56 Mocha Street uses the metaphor of coffee to describe “the mingling of different colours”, with Emma as a white female and Oupa a black male. The piece explores the intricacies of gender fights, and facing one another head-on.The two use the idea of play and using their bodies to take on the spaces in which they find themselves. Through this, they explore the idea of encounters further.
What is the piece about?[pullquote]“It’s a vicious cycle of disconnection, finding each other and losing each other,”[/pullquote]
The piece depicts an intensely tragic relationship, “Its a vicious cycle of disconnection,finding each other and losing each other” ,said Tollman. She described the journey through Mocha Street as different from that of a more conventional theater. In this piece, “there is a disillusion of time, a flood of happenings. We are always just happening, we can’t control keeping on.”
The piece was created through a process of “play”, during which the two noticed that material “kept happening”. Through this material and their movements, they have found a story.
The video showcases an interview with Callandra Youngleson, Nick Rumpelt and Carl Straussner who will be performing in Matswako “the mix”, Part 1 on Saturday 16 March 2013.
The show will showcase the best of the Wits School of Arts’ Classical and Jazz Student Musicians 2013.
The event takes place on 16 March at 19:30 in the Music Room, 8th floor, University Corner, East Campus (see map below).
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