Archive for the ‘ArtsBridge’ Category

CWB learnersWe have told you about the new partnerships that FTH:K has launched, right, and one of the projects on which we are collaborating is our National Deaf Education Tour (NDET). We ran our first tour in 2006 and since then, have run one every year, reaching more than 25 000 youths, of which 70% have been Deaf or hard of hearing. Together with Clowns Without Borders SA, Dominican School for Deaf Children in Wittebome, Cape Town, and international Deaf artist, Ramesh Meyyappan, FTH:K is running its National Tour again sharing with Deaf learners across the country the magic of live performance and the fun of theatre skills.

CWB groupNow, you obviously know who FTH:K is, and we’re sure you’re familiar with our work at Dominican School through our Tell-Tale Signs Programme, but what about Clowns Without Borders? Well, they are a group of…clowns…obviously…but not just any old buncha clowns. They are a group that has reached over 200,000 children and adults in communities affected by violence, disease, natural disasters, and poverty, and by presenting free performances throughout Southern Africa, they use physical comedy, music, storytelling, and dance, to provide momentary relief to people in these affected environments. Yeah. They’re awesome.

The Art of WarAnd this Ramesh guy? Ramesh Meyyappan is a Deaf theatre practitioner, based in Scotland, who creates performances using an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre styles. Despite using little to no language in his work, he creates strong narrative performances and recently even added circus techniques to his theatrical visual vocabulary. His works have been toured to Austria, Australia, Cambodia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States to name just a few…and now, South Africa! And we met him through our American partners, Quest Visual Theatre.

The Tour itself

The first leg of the 2013 NDET runs until 24 May at the Dominican School for Deaf Children where Ramesh will be running a 3-week residency programme in visual theatre with the Deaf learners. He’s teaming up with long-standing FTH:K friend and collaborator Sjaka Septembir to create a work-in-progress which will culminate in a series of showcases at the school’s annual Arts and Culture Day on 1 November.

The second phase brings together new and old collaborators. The new? The fabulous Clowns Without Borders SA. The old? Previous FTH:K Artistic Director, Jayne Batzofin, and a number of schools in KZN and the Free State with whom we have both long-standing relationships and new, burgeoning ones. The clowns have devised a new production that they are taking around KZN and the Free State from 06 to 24 May.

But it’s important to note that the NDET is not just about performing a show and then leaving again. As our awesome CEO Ana Lemmer says, “One of our objectives is to give the Deaf access not only to theatre and theatre skills, but also to develop skills in areas related to drama, literacy, self-confidence and team work, as well as developing future audiences. We are particularly inspired about our new partnerships as these will enable us to reach new heights in line with those objectives.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, an additional coolness is that Deaf FTH:K graduates Marlon Snyders, Christopher Beukes and Sinethemba Mgebisa will also be working with Ramesh while he is in the country, benefitting from the exchange not only creatively but also in personal growth as Ramesh himself is testimony of what is possible in Deaf performance. You guys will remember Marlon, Christopher and Sinethemba as being Trainees on our Tell-Tale Signs training programme’s Integrated Professional Development Programme, dazzling audiences with their performances in OfficeBLOCK, before graduating from the programme in 2012.

So, there you go, okes. We’ll keep you posted on how the project is going so, as always watch this space!

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Officially speaking….

The dynamic young organisation, which this year celebrated its sixth birthday, moves into the next phase of growth with a strong focus on its education programmes including the Artsbridge International Exchange. In addition, the creative team will enjoy new artistic mentorship under the guidance of company member Jayne Batzofin, who has been with the company since 2009. Batzofin takes over the role of Artistic Director, and overseeing the company’s education and creative output, from founder and current Artistic Director Rob Murray, who is taking up the position of resident director with Janet Buckland’s Ubom! Company in Grahamstown.


“The first six years have been an exhilarating rollercoaster ride,” says Murray. “We have toured extensively nationally and internationally, won multiple awards and developed a ground-breaking theatre education programme for Deaf learners.

“It is now time to consolidate what has been created and build on that foundation to nurture a sustainable theatre training programme that provides opportunities to Deaf learners from all over the country. FTH:K is today an established entity in itself and has at its helm a strong new leadership team to take it into the next five years. “

Murray will be working with Batzofin as part of the handover which will also see Batzofin taking over as South African director of the Artsbridge International Exchange programme. Artsbridge is a two-year skills and cultural exchange project between Deaf and hearing communities in South Africa and the USA. It involves workshops, discussions and the creation of a work with Wings Theatre Company from the USA, which will be performed at QuestFest in Washington DC in March, followed by a national tour of South Africa. Batzofin was part of the team that travelled to the USA this year as part of the first phase of the project.

Company Director Tanya Surtees, who relocated to Washington DC earlier this year, will head up the Artsbridge Exchange from abroad while also working for QuestFest hosts, Quest Visual Theatre. She will remain on with FTH:K in an advisory capacity supporting Ana Lemmer, who joined FTH:K in March, in her new role as Company Director from 2012.

“It remains an honour to work for FTH:K, brokering the Exchange from the DC side and working to get the Company onto the international stage. It is humbling to see how over the years FTH:K has grown bigger than the vision of any one of its members or co-founders, and it is particularly satisfying to see new faces joining the family, fresh voices emerging in both leadership and creative roles, and old faces moving on to tackle new challenges.” says Surtees.

“2012 also marks the next phase of our Tell-Tale Signs education programme. The national tour next year with Artsbridge will include workshops that serve as an audition process for our next intake of trainees. This will be the first time we have been able to potentially offer places to students from outside of Cape Town. 2013 will mark the start of the three-year Deaf training programme, as well as a run of our latest production, Benchmarks, which won a Handspring Puppetry award,” says Murray.

“I am honoured to be working with Ubom! next year and, as a Rhodes graduate who studied under Andrew Buckland, I feel lucky to be returning to my theatrical roots.”

Joining Murray at Ubom! is company member Liezl de Kock who has been with FTH:K since 2006. Fleur du Cap-nominated actress de Kock will continue to perform her acclaimed roles in productions such as Pictures of You, Womb Tide and Benchmarks.

Batzofin graduated from Wits University Cum Laude with a BADA (Honours): majoring in directing and stage and costume design. She first met FTH:K in 2007 but was on her way to study for two years at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. On her return to South Africa, she joined the FTH:K team and has performed in and designed their highly acclaimed productions such as Womb Tide and Benchmarks. She has also played an integral role in the development of the Tell-Tale Signs programme as well as devised, designed and directed productions such as Shortcuts for the national schools tour.

“I am looking forward to working with the FTH:K team in my new role and helping to take the company to even greater heights,” says Batzofin. “It is a privilege to take over the mantle from Rob, and build on the outstanding work that he and the company have done to lay the foundations for the next five years.”

*FTH:K is a young, ground-breaking theatre company that works in the field of Visual Theatre. Without a dependency on any one language, its work crosses over cultural and linguistic divides and calls on audiences to “Listen With Your Eyes”. It has already won multiple awards, toured all over South Africa, Germany and Argentina, and in only 6 years, has reached more than 47 000 people.

More than that, FTH:K is South Africa’s premier Deaf and hearing theatre company with the goal of integrating the Deaf into the performing arts world in South Africa. This aim is best illustrated through its unique Tell-Tale Signs programme which is currently training South Africa’s first generation of Deaf artists for inclusion in the professional performing arts industry. There is currently no other project like it (nor has there ever been) running in South Africa.

FTH:K works include its award-winning performances of Pictures of You and Benchmarks (in association with a conspiracy of clowns), GUMBO, and its multi-award-nominated QUACK! and Womb Tide.

OfficeBLOCK closed on Saturday night and after a fantastic run, it was time for a celebration. Opening night catered for a South African and American mix of food that included corn DSCN6935dogs and mielies and mini hamburgers,and popcorn and also sorts of finger-food treats. If you hung around long enough, there were also cream tartlets and mini-pumpkin pies.

For closing night, what was going to be a braai that had both hotdogs and boerewors to again celebrate the Artsbridge journey that OfficeBLOCK would be taking, turned into a bunny chow night: home-made curries, fresh bread, salads and atchar. A solid, filling, tasty meal, that everyone of every diet could enjoy.  There was the option of vegetable curry and meat curry, and an amazing bean and banana salad, all home-made.

YUM!

Often cocktail tomatoes, sliced carrots, little samoosas, tiny chicken wings and meat balls are a safe choice but what can we do to offer our audiences something new and tempting each time?  Do we rather cut the food budget and up the amount of free booze? Or do we continue to fight for the balance between food and drink? What kinds of foods can we arrange that fit out trying budgets, people’s diets and also give our audiences a 5-star welcome? Or will we always be celebrating theatre productions with culinary delights in miniature?

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There have been great efforts made by theatre companies in Cape Town and they should get props. The Baxter Theatre had a huge make-over earlier this year and had an amazing variety of food, with various cold meats, breads, cheeses and jams, and biscuits that came with little tubes of chocolate or almond syrup you could flavour it with. Not to mention the cocktails that could be a little stronger with a wink and a smile to the barman – or so we heard.  The opening of KKNK was another hit: champagne that kept on coming and trays of quiches and skewered chicken being delivered by waiters  continuously. GIPCA gets a note in our books for a wonderful presentation of bread and cheese at the series of talks they held.

Theatre isn’t just about getting a bum on a seat. It’s about the entire experience being given to the patron. Considering that the audience has to drive all the way to your venue (petrol) possibly get someone to babysit the kids (cost), maybe have dinner or drinks with the people they’re with (another cost), purchase a ticket (minor cost), and then tip the car guard, it totals up to more than just the cost of a ticket. The full theatre experience will up the value of your production, ensure that your audiences will return and best of all, tell their friends about it.

To good food and even better theatre experiences: bon appétit!

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‘OfficeBLOCK’ ends tomorrow night where we will have a braai afterwards, small and cosy and keeping us down-to-earth with the people who love and support us the most, before we take the piece off to America, to share and build it with the amazing people at Wings Theatre of Quest Visual Theatre.

So far the response has been great. Here are two reviews, by Rory Berry and Mariana Malan and if you’re not so clued up on Afrikaans, the Google Translate application gives you the jist of what Die Burger is getting at.

AnaEven though our beloved Tink couldn’t make it, she sent her words with Ana and filled the air with her spirit.

As a draft for the final piece that will be made for QuestFest (US) and National Arts Fest (SA) 2012 the piece is showing a strong foundation. For this very short run, we’ve opened ourselves right up for feedback from our audiences. We’ve made space for the patrons to comment in on our foyer display, or in private with the director after the show. The work is, at the end of the day, about the audience, so who better to give us feedback? The audiences have this week been made up of new faces, press and the backbone of FTH:K’s sanity, the FTH:K Family.

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The FTH:K family, which originally started out as actual family members, has grown to include supporters of the work, from public, the press, collaborators and contributors. We hope that in the months to come, these characters in our community will be of the American variety too. Check these family photos by our amazing publicist Christine Skinner:

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Just two more performances left! Our trainees really showing their mettle. Come see! While you’re at it try get your hands on our OfficeBLOCK’ badges, they’re selling like hot cakes!

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Sneak Pictures from Friday’s rehearsal below!

OfficeBLOCK opens on Wednesday, with a preview on Tuesday night.

Rob, our artistic director and award-winning lighting designer will be spending today working out technical cues and once again showing-off his fabulous eye for lighting. Given that 3/4’s of the performers are Deaf, he has to take into account that the Deaf are hugely reliant on their sight and appropriate lighting for balance – especially when climbing on one another!

Jayne has been designing the set and costume. Although Jayne is from historically Joburg, she will give any designer in Cape Town a run for their money with her know-how of Cape Town’s streets,  and her keen eye for design and bargain.

Our newcomer Gali has been lending her hand in the dance department.  Gali Kumwimba nee Malebo, our education co-ordinator, has been involved in musical theatre up in the Free State and has been blessing us with her presence since June.  She is generally the quiet type, that is, until the music starts.

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OfficeBLOCK, is a series of vignettes which details the corporate world, and is also a chance for the public to see the talent we have been harvesting in the form of our trainees Marlon, Christo and Sinethemba. Make no mistake, these are not actors taken because, “ag shame, they’re Deaf” but because their stage presence and physicality is enormously spectacular. This is a chance for the you, the public, to see the value of what FTH:K does, integrating the Deaf and hearing onto one stage. The trainees will perform alongside our Fleur du Cap nominee Liezl de Kock.

This piece will only grow from here and your input is wholly welcome after the show. Next year we take the piece to QuestFest where we integrate with Wings Theatre Company. Following QuestFest we will be bringing the piece to National Arts Festival, to debut on African soil.

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FTH:K is an award-winning company and Ismail Mohamed, National Arts Festival Director, had this to say about FTH:K’s Herbert Dhlomo Naledi Award to Emerging Theatre Company:

“In the presentation of the award the word “emerging” was not to denote newcomer on the block but it was intended to acknowledge a company whose work is giving rise to newly emerging forms of artistic expression, entrepreneurial best practices and a commitment to grow social consciousness through quality driven entertaining theatre productions. The first ever award in this category receives its own sense of value by it being given to a company that celebrates a strong track record of representing the values envisioned by this award.”

Tuesday (1 November 2011), was the Arts and Culture Day showcase at the Dominican school for the Deaf in Wynberg. And it was amazing.  The MEC for Social Development, Albert Fritz, opened the day and it was just great to have him come and recognise the the day!

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Each year, our trainees, Marlon, Christo and Sinethemba are given the opportunity to teach drama to students at the school culminating in an end of year practical exam. Our trainees are being trained in non-verbal visual theatre, groomed to one day join FTH:K as professional members. Their task was to adapt simple children’s stories for stage and this turned out to be hugely entertaining for everyone who came!

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This is now my 3rd year of being a part of the Dominican Arts and Culture Day, and I can say it is the best one yet. The students and trainees are just improving in leaps and bounds! And the Day itself is growing- the addition of the Arts award was just awesome. I always feel so blessed to witness the progress of the Dominican learners- they are truly inspirational! – Jayne Batzofin, FTH:K Theatre Maker

 

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Since last year, the trainees have come a long way and are starting to show strong signs of individuality, style and flair. With a small budget, the trainees purchased props and costume. In an adaptation of ‘Pugwash the Pirate’  all ten actors had their own swords were dressed beautifully in coloured pirate pants and tops. It’s these simple gestures that point to a much larger understanding of theatre-making.

What was awesome to see was the use of space and clear imagery used by all the trainee directors. It is so rewarding to see their training at work. Sitting on the side-lines, us arts managers couldn’t help but realise that the standard of our trainees work has increased dramatically, because of a range of improvements to our curriculum, but also quite importantly, being exposed to Gallaudet University in DC and working with artists at the Quest Visual Theatre Company.

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It’s absolutely amazing and feels so rewarding that our work, with just a handful of Deaf trainees, has been so successful. The potential of what we dreamed of is being realised, and is evident of how much more we can do for the Deaf and theatre. 

The ultimate dream, is to have our trainees compete against any hearing actor in a non-verbal piece. We have successfully managed this in our award-winning pieces QUACK! and Gumbo, and are now transferring these skills to the next generation.

The FTH:K team was thanked by the Dominican School for the Deaf, not just as a procedural event, but for raising the profile of Deaf theatre in the country and for the continuous work done at the school.

This post is for the team: the creative team, the trainees, the learners and teachers at the Dominican and the FTH:K arts managers. Bravo! 

I read a blog post the other day commenting on the struggle to successfully market theatre productions by theatre some theatre makers in Cape Town. The solution to this problem would be to let theatre-makers make theatre, and let arts managers do the rest.

In the Cape Town theatre industry, and this probably echoes worldwide, what theatre productions need, are arts managers. An arts manager is a company director, the person who runs the production like a business. An arts manager is not a producer who has input into the type of show the business must make. A producer might tend towards more commercial products and comprise the integrity of the artistic vision.  An arts manager is a master problem-solver.  An arts manager creates an environment for the artist to excel in, while putting all the business factors into place.

This is not to say that a director is incapable of doing all of it himself, but with time escaping us all the time, the director is at risk of doing a half-arsed job, resulting in poorly thought out and a half-executed marketing campaign.

The argument against having a someone else manage the business side of the work is that there is no budget for it. But then, is there ever budget for anything? Shows without budget operate on the currency of their network. Why should that network, which yields stage-managers, actors and writers hoping for a cut of the door, not also include a marketing manager / publicist who will only increase the number of bums on seats?

It doesn’t matter if you are the worlds best theatre-maker if no one knows about you.. does it?

Delegating and communicating

A healthy relationship between the creative and the manager ensures that the directors vision is in tact and the excited audiences know what they’re in for.

For FTH:K, Rob is the artistic director and is in the process of rehearsing OfficeBLOCK. Rob has been with the company for 6 years, and has done time as an arts manager. He understands what the job entails and so communicates his ideas with the company director, the publicist and online marketing manager who currently make up the arts management team.

This frees the creative team, the director, actors, stage manager and designer to focus on the development of their project while the administration, funding and management of the brand is run by the   arts management team.

Conceptually, OfficeBLOCK is about  “The beauty of invisible things”  which fires off a whole stream of ideas from the depths of the imagination. But it doesn’t tell the audience enough about the show. At least not in relationship to the name of the piece. In a meeting between the creative team and the arts management team, “Business as Usual” was chosen as the catch phrase.

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FTH:K

The cutting edge, award-winning company known for it’s non-verbal visual theatre work with pieces such as Benchmarks, QUACK!,  Pictures of You, and Womb Tide.

Presents: OfficeBLOCK

The name of the show and visual typography clues

Business as Usual

 The catch phrase to incite the question: what magic comes of a company like FTH:K exploring the office block? Find out

at the Intimate Theatre this November 15th – 19th.

Contact Angela at the Office for details.

This post is part of what the company stands for in terms of arts management. Using our current show as an example is a way of educating and marketing our show. Rings back to the old sales ABC (Always Be Closing), always be talking about your show.

It’s great that there are people out there who are tired of the poorly executed marketing campaigns out there, to them we raise our glasses, be it tequila, brandy and coke, or a cuppa tea and salute them. We, FTH:K join you in the the war against unprofessional approaches to theatre and celebrate the arrival of arts management.