Going solo in the name of art

The second annual So Solo festival  is coming to the Wits theater this spring and it promises a line-up of thought provoking theater .


The So Solo festival of one person plays is coming to the Wits Theater for a month from September 11. A unique concept in theater, the festival will feature a solo actor performing a story in each show, accompanied only by lights, props and music.

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided


“So Solo is an edgy festival and this years’ productions are works that push the boundaries of the art form further,” said festival director Gitanjali Pather.


16 plays written by diverse writers, directors and actors will be showcased over the month-long festival. Some of the artists featured are current Wits students including Kelly Eksteen, star of Kullid.  Eksteen says the experience of working physically alone has taught her the value of having other actors on stage supporting the storytelling process.


“I think that no matter whether you’re in an ensemble of 20 cast members or if you’re by yourself, it’s never about you,” she said.


Pather says she chose to target young talents who are creating work despite the obstacles they face.

Many graduates of the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) are producing their own work and this will be performed for audiences at the So Solo festival.  The likes of MoMo Matsunyane, the writer and director of this years commissioned piece, ‘Penny’ and Tony Miyambo who performs the award winning Kafka’s Ape will also make an appearance during the festival.


“I took two plays down to the national arts festival this year; Kafkas Ape and The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri which was the commissioned play for the first ever So Solo festival last year. I was given the opportunity to tell stories that are close to my heart and received an amazing response for both pieces,” said Miyambo.


WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided

WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured WSOA alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided


Having a space to perform is important for young people in the arts, according to  Pather. She said students get to “shape, and reshape their stories, hone their skills and understand that magical thing that happens between performer and the audience.”


Aside from the student participants, the festival also hosts well-known theater personalities like Carina Nel who will perform the critically acclaimed ‘Suster’ – a story about a woman who is diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder following her parents’ death.


Makhaola Siyanda Ndebele, the writer and performer of ‘Cantos of a life in exile’  deploys the South African performance genres of iiNgoma (healing rituals), iintsomi (storytelling) and IziBongo (praise poetry) in this tale about finding home. This autobiographical performance journey explores the complexities of identity faced  by a South African citizen exiled during apartheid.


Craig Morris’s hilarious delivery in the award winning  ‘Johnny Boskak is feeling funny’ is sure to leave the audience in stiches.  This spin-off to Greig Coetzee’s White men with weapons, is based on Johnny Boskak’s journey to find his place in the new South Africa. It’s a story about defying the odds at any means necessary with a comedic twist.


WELL KNOWN FACES: Some well known artists featured in last years festival. This year will also include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided

THE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN: This year will  include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided


“I created the So Solo season to celebrate the solo artist”


The works of captivating works of multi talented writers and actors like Philip M. Dikotla in ‘Jokes 4 sale’ , Billy Langa in ‘Ngwed1’ , Wiseman Mncube in ‘Giving birth to my father’ and Tefo Paya in ‘Morwa: the rising sun’,will ensure that any genre you crave will be satisfied.


Pather says, “more and more artists are using the solo performer vehicle to tell stories AND practice their craft in a way that makes it economically viable.” Performers agree saying that there’s no better way to advance ones career but through doing the work they love.


Book online at www.webtickets.co.za or purchase your tickets from box office. The ticket prices range from R70 to R85

Theatre staff complain over overtime pay


EMPTY POCKETS:  Disgruntled staff at the Wits Theatre are clashing with new management, about over-time pay.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

EMPTY POCKETS: Disgruntled staff at the Wits Theatre are clashing with new management, about over-time pay. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

By Lameez Omarjee and Roxanne Joseph

Wits Theatre staff are complaining about changes in the way they are paid overtime saying “new management” limits their claims.

“Our contract says five days a week, but now we work up to seven days sometimes,” said Sipho*, who works at the theatre.

Spreading hours

Sipho said the work hours set in their contracts have been spread out across the week, and not five days. Even though workers come in on the weekends, they do not get paid for overtime because they are still working off the week’s required work hours.

Sipho was told by management they did not qualify for “overtime” pay because the “minister” does not allow it. Sipho also said that “all” the staff were unhappy with conditions.

“They [are] limiting worker hours,” said Olivia Moeti, whose mother works at the Wits Theatre. Workers finish at 3pm on weekdays but come in on Saturday to work the other hours required by their contract, she said.
The theatre employs five cleaners, two of whom are directly employed by Wits.

According to theatre manager Gita Pather, university policy states that anyone who earns under the threshold of R198 000 each year is entitled to overtime and has to work at least 42.5 hours a week. They also cannot work more than 10 hours overtime, because it is against labour law.

“The rules of the industry have been negotiated and are in line with university policy and labour laws,” she said. When she took over as manager, overtime rules were not strictly enforced.

“They were getting paid overtime and taking toil,” she said. “Those who didn’t qualify for overtime were being given it anyway … People had gotten used to being paid huge amounts of overtime.”
But this year, she was given a budget and has to use that amount allocated to overtime across the whole year.

New management

Problems started when new management took over this year, said Moeti. “My mum has been working here for 31 years, this is the first time it’s happening.” The new management insists that these new rules come from Wits University, she said.

“According to management, they say, Wits says it’s [work on Saturdays] is not overtime … They say Wits says they must get a day off instead of paying them,” she said.

“I am completely satisfied that we are working within the rules set by the university and labour laws.”

However, Pather did not know about this and said the only thing that has changed is the number of hours they are allowed to work. Unless it is festival time, employees do not work on a Sunday and they work off a call sheet.

Wits Services, who manage the cleaning staff, are not aware of any overtime issues. According to director Nicki McGee: “We undertake when appointing service providers via the approved, transparent tender processes, and in consultation with numerous stakeholders at the university.

“The service providers adhere to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act … to ensure that such practices do not occur.”

Additionally, there aren’t different rates for night shift, from 4pm to 8.30pm. No provision for transport is made for staff ending their shifts at night. “It’s not fair to let a woman walk to Bree in the middle of the night,” said Moeti.
Pather said security provides transport to all Wits employees who work late at night. “They take them to the taxi rank.”

Moeti said management was trying to save on expenses throughout the year so that they could get “more money in December”. She said: “They’re trying to save, they’re saving on other people’s expense.”
She also said more people had problems but they were too scared to come forward, out of fear of losing their jobs.

“There is an issue,” Pather said. “But I have a set amount of money.” She said the theatre is “completely compliant”. She said she is aware of the unhappiness, but has a budget and has to manage that.
“I am completely satisfied that we are working within the rules set by the university and labour laws.”

*not his real name



LETTER: Wits theatre head defends ‘deaf’ play

The following letter to the editor was received from Ms Gita Pather, Director of the Wits Theatre in response to a recent article: No sign of love for ‘deaf’ play.


“I need to express my dismay at your article titled “No sign of love for deaf” play”. It may have been your intention to shed light on a perceived disgruntlement about a play that includes a deaf role played by an hearing person in this case a Drama student enrolled within the WSOA but is rather shoddy journalism that should have addressed the issues in a balanced and informed manner especially since the focus of attention is a young, sensitive female student with the very best of intentions.

The journalist is obviously a student as well who should be guided a little more and that is why this letter is addressed to you as the editor.

It’s  sensationalistic and ignores some of the very fundamental stances related to artistic freedom and in fact the freedom of speech and expression (surely located at the heart of journalism?). A more valuable approach for your readers would have been to tease out those very issues: the rights of the deaf community in relation to artistic freedom/freedom of expression and the arts as a profession.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Dr Kaneko is entitled to her views but the study of drama and performance is really quite specific”[/pullquote]

You have attempted to capture the sentiments of “members of the Wits Community”  and they are referred to as such … vague and completely disregarding the fact that this university is as diverse as the society it is sited within. There is no “wits community” and to state it as such is to assume that we all share the same values, backgrounds, ideologies and that is plainly not true.

In your view, who are these members? Do they include students and staff on this campus who are actually studying/teaching drama and  who prize and would defend the right to artistic freedom as strongly as any other lobby? ?

Would that not have been more balanced reporting since you saw fit to include rather strong emotive statement from  Dr Michiko Kaneko? Dr Kaneko is entitled to her views but the study of drama and performance is really quite specific and actually requires an understanding of the totality of what the curriculum involves including the sanctity of the creative and artistic vision.

“The deaf community on campus and related stakeholders are entitled to their views”

The Deaf community on campus and related stakeholders  are entitled to their views but it needs to be balanced against the rights of artistes to practice their craft without pandering to every viewpoint.

The theatre is an arena  of constant contestation: it is about educating, inspiring, provoking, making statements about life in all its complexities . But as importantly it is absolutely personal , a sum total of a particular artistic viewpoint on a subject, the world, our community Actors are called actors because they “act”.

[pullquote]”The play has not been staged yet so exactly what is at issue here?”[/pullquote]

That is the nature of performance and we are all engaged in teaching our Drama and performance students about that art and it is an art. To presuppose that just anyone can “act” is ridiculous and rubbishes a art form that is actually one of the oldest professions in the world.

What is even more dismaying is that the play has not been staged yet so exactly what is at issue here … the fact that there is a hearing person playing the role of a deaf person? Amy de Wet is a student studying performance and how to be an actor. She is the director and has the final say on the play. In the creative industries, it is always the director’s prerogative.

It may turn out to be a stinker of a play or it may be fabulous. The Wits Theatre upholds the rights of all  students and artistic practitioners to fail because performance, directing and acting is not about absolutes, it is about process. This is even more important because Amy is a student here and has the same rights as any other member of the Wits “community”.

I think you need to revisit the issue in a more balanced and informed way.


Gita Pather

Director, Wits Theatre