Those of you who follow us regularly (we love you) will know that every year FTH:K hits the road for a National Tour. The tradition was inadvertently started by The GUMBO Tour in 2007 that came to be through a grant from the now-defunct Conference, Workshop and Cultural Initiative Fund – at that point, our biggest sponsor ever. In so many ways, this grant was a learning curve for us: in how we budgeted, how we managed the money, how we reported on activities etc (working with the EU and its rules was quite something for the 2-year-old FTH:K!); but the tour also made us realise just how many organisations, institutions, schools, theatres, festivals, learners were out there. At first, this was a little demoralising: how was our little company ever going to be able to reach the people we needed to when we were so small and all the way down in the Western Cape?? It took us a few strategic planning sessions to find the answer: slowly and consistently. We didn’t realise that we had stumbled over an idea that would later be fleshed out in an Arts Management principle nicked from Michael Kaiser: not in a day, not without failure, not without discipline. So we decided that we would prioritise an annual National Tour, presenting a performance and education programme in at least three provinces – a goal we are proud to surpass almost every year.
And in typical FTH:K style, in 2012 we shot for the stars and took on our biggest National Tour yet. First KZN, then the Free State, Gauteng, and the Western Cape. (We were meant to go to Mpumalanga as well but the demand and interest there seemed so small that we couldn’t justify the expense of getting the team up there. However, this is a province we will keep working on in our endeavour to get into every province in the country. First SA, then the wooooooooorld!) Putting thoughts of world domination aside, the first leg of the tour has just been finished. Last weekend, we welcomed the touring team back and gave them a well-deserved week off. But not before our Artistic Director, Jayne, jotted down some tour impressions for you all:
“This has been my first ever FTH:K National Schools’ Tour and it was an eye-opening experience to say the least. And since at FTH:K we “listen with our eyes”, I have been doing a LOT of listening! This KZN tour was the biggest of our National Tours to date, with 5 hearing schools, 5 Deaf schools and 1 Deaf institute on our itinerary, and our chock-a-block 2-week schedule took us from Durban to Mooi River and back again.
At the Deaf schools, the learners were thirsty for drama knowledge, looking to Marlon, Sine and Christo as role models. At the hearing schools, the learners were thirsty for sign language and information on Deaf culture, looking to our Trainees as a welcome access point to something unknown. No matter which school we attended, the learners welcomed us with open minds and big smiles.
Without a doubt, OfficeBLOCK has been a controversial show to tour, questioning and unpacking the global threat known as The Corporation. Making the learners engage with uncomfortable subject matter is never a simple task, but using the medium of non-verbal performance we found them mesmerised. They laughed with Sinethemba. They covered their mouths in horror at Christo and Asanda. They sympathised with Marlon. And by curtain call all hands were frantically waving in the air: a sure sign that we had achieved what we set out to do.
This is the beauty of Visual Theatre. It creates a singular and integrated experience for an audience member, engaging them in a conversation of images that requires their presence to complete the theatrical contract. And the learners got this, perhaps more readily than many adults who are so used to being “helped along” by words.
Our National School Tours are a bold reminder of why we do what we do, and we are most certainly looking forward to the next time we visit KZN!”