Archive for the ‘Conspiracy’ Category

FTHK is buzzing again.

PPC wins BASA Award for their work with us!

Last night, Ana and Ugli hit the BASA Awards in Jozi where 3 of our funders were up for awards for the contributions to FTHK. As a special treat, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company presented ‘Topthorn’ of their world famous War Horse production. (Read further to get an upclose and personal look at the horse puppets of Handspring)

Adrian Kohler, Topthorn... and is that... Craig Leo ?

In the world of arts management, it’s no secret that your funders are your backbone, but far too often they don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s no longer  about just printing a logo at the bottom of your flyer: it’s about celebrating the work of the people who support you.

This year, PPC, Distell and CitiVibe were all nominated for supporting FTHK, with PPC winning the BASA Award for Increasing Accessibility to the Arts.

Picture by Rob Murray

Ana of FTHK and Franci of PPC with the Loot!

Last year, PPC sponsored our Tell-Tale Signs Tour, which gave our Deaf trainees the opportunity to tour the country, performing Tales from the Trash and conduct clowning workshops to Deaf schools around the country.

 All our funders really are the wind beneath our wings..  Thanks to them (as well as Bette Midler) we can present to you:

Benchmarks in Cape Town!

Rob Murray docks his ship at the NAF, headed for Cape Town's Out The Box Festival

For only 3 shows, Benchmarks will be performing at this years Out The Box Festival, which we’ve heard is bigger and bolder than before. More than anything, we absolutely love playing for our home-crowd, our biggest supporters.  The piece is even set in Cape Town, and if that doesn’t pay homage we’re not sure what will.

Have you yet heard about it from the horse’s mouth?

If you’re in Cape Town and want to get a full package of visual and cutting edge theatre, book a tour with CoffeebeansRoutes who will be taking groups of people to the Handspring Puppet Company workshop, where you can get a close up view of the mechanics of the puppets, followed by a meet the artist drink, and in their words, then watch one “OTB’s top shows”, Benchmarks on Thursday the 8th of September.

We, as FTHK, are so grateful for all the support we receive, from our funder friends to and our loyal family members. You guys make this all possible.

Come see us, Benchmarks and a conspiracy of clowns’s Kardiavale at the festival.. and as per usual… book at Computicket!

Dates for FTHK’s Benchmarks at Hiddingh Campus

  • Thursday 8 September: 17:00 and 20:00
  • Friday 9 September: 11:00

Dates for a conspiracy of clowns’ Kardiavale at Hiddingh Campus

  • Monday 5 September: 18:00 and 21:30
  • Tuesday 6 September: 11:00
Visit FTHK online for anything else you might like to know.

by Cristina Salvoldi- Photo by Wendy Birt

Benchmarks, not only the name of our new show, but the goalposts we keep moving.

Here’s where we’ve come so far:

 “ FTH:K is an independent and vibrant theatre company that has enriched the South African theatre landscape with its original and unique approach to visual theatre. Having pioneered itself as a groundbreaking South African theatre company which casts both hearing and Deaf actors, their work challenges and enriches both the artists and the audiences through a combination of visual and performing arts forms such as puppetry, masks and live performance. As trendsetters of this genre in South Africa, it is clearly evident that the current growth in visual theatre on the festival and mainstream circuit is influenced by FTH:K’s prolific style and their ability to continually raise the bar both on excellence and innovation.”
-Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival

Some of you, those loyal enough to have been at our AGM will remember Ugli Bob‘s rundown of the artistic journey which explained how we got to now and for those of you who weren’t there – We’re only telling you this twice.

Phase 1:

The company has its roots in what we call our Environmental Phase. Tanya and Rob started out as dance and drama teachers at Community Arts Project (CAP) where they started the  Professional Development Programme (PDP). Under this banner they combined African storytelling with mime and created the piece Touch Wood in 2003.

Wayyyy back

Full cast of Touch Wood- Photo by Steve Kretzmann

This was created in response to fires that blazed on Table Mountain for weeks.  This was followed  by Water Pockets and very crucially, Imbew’embi: The Bad Seed, which saw the Rob collaborate for the first time with Janni Younge, for the making of shadow puppets.  Water Pockets was the first production to be housed by a major theatre, and enjoyed a run at the Artscape Arena.

In 2005,  FTH:K was officially launched and with funding from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), was able to employ its staff on a full-time basis. Water Pockets toured the Western Cape and a crucial stylistic benchmark happened with the creation of  Leap of Faith for the Mental Health and Disability Conference. This was the companies first integrated piece, with hearing and Deaf performers. Scripts were thrown out, and the non-verbal style that would become the companies trademark, entrenched itself.

2005 was also the the year the company won the ACT Cultural Development Award, and the Western Cape Award for Disability in the Arts. 

Phase 2

Having developed stylistically, FTH:K entered into its second phase – Integrated Theatre: where the company did away with written scripts and made their work more accessible to the Deaf and hearing. 2006 saw the beginning of the Integrated Professional Development Programme (IPDP). Liezl de Kock and Lysander Barends joined the programme and became long-standing members. Liezl is still with the company while Lysander left after five long years.

Generating new forms of income:

At the time the NLDTF funding was coming to an end and the company turned to associated producing to generate income. Here they threw themselves in the deep-end of marketing to produce shows such as the Dogs Bollocks by Gaëtan Schmid and Birds’ Eye View. The company then won the ACT Most Successful Company Award.

At the end of 2006, the company created Gumbo which was a fully integrated Deaf and hearing clowning production.

Gumbo in Argentina

Benchmark: South America

2007 was the year of Gumbo. The show toured around the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Johannesburg as well as Frieburg, Berlin, and Munich in Germany and Argentina. During this year, FTH:K’s friendship circle grew enormously and left a strong impression on two particular Wits students, Simangele and Jayne. Both ladies would later move to Cape Town and become full-time employees of the company, Simangele in 2010 as Educational Co-ordinator and Jayne as a theatre-maker, performer and designer in 2009.

By 2008, Gumbo had it’s 100th performance at the Baxter Studio and as the company grew, it became more accepted as a visual theatre company rather than a company that was Deaf specific.

The tag line, “a conspiracy of clowns” became the name of the experimental wing of the company, and premiered Pictures of You, their debut piece in 2008. Pictures of You went on to be the sleeper hit of the National Arts Festival.

Phase 3

By 2009, FTH:K entered into its 3rd and current phase – Visual Theatre. Pictures of You, by the Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K ran at the Baxter and at the National Arts Festival where it was the top selling show of the festival.

"Mama I made it!"

Stylistically the company was moving away from sign language in their shows as they had done with Gumbo, which had its 124th performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sign language just seemed to make hearing audiences uncomfortable and left out.

In that same year, FTH:K produced their first Deaf only piece, Ek Roep vir Jou Vanaand created by Lysander and directed by Liezl. This piece toured both Deaf and hearing schools around the Western Cape.

At the end of 2009, QUACK! was born. This dark and edgy story premiered at the Baxter and brought on new collaborators, Jayne Batzofin, who then joined the company, as well as Jori Snell.

2010 was a bumpy year as the company spent much of its time on tour. The company ran three major productions, Pictures of You, QUACK! and the newest offering Womb Tide. The Deaf trainees, Marlon, Tomri and Christo along with Simangele Mabena, the companies new education co-ordinator, did a national tour of the country with their piece, Tales from the Trash.

In September the company left to conquer Johannesburg, running a season at the Market Theatre, playing both QUACK! and Womb Tide.

- Photo by Wendy Birt

The company  also won their first Fleur Du Cap, awarded to Rob “Ugli Bob” Murray for his lighting design

For 2011, the trainee piece Shortcuts is set to tour nationally. The Conspiracy of Clowns premiers their new piece Kardiàvale in May and a “Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K” piece, debuts Benchmarks at the National Arts Festival.

Benchmarks will be on the Main Programme of the festival, just another benchmark for FTH:K.

Rob’s Conclusion:

” 6 years old and we often have to pinch ourselves at the good fortune and success we have had.  Success that is moderate according to our ambitions, but immense in terms of the groundswell and recognition we have achieved not only for Deaf education, or the integration of the Deaf and the hearing, but of massive strides we have undertaken in ushering in and being part of the Visual Theatre wave sweeping across the country, as well as backing that up by innovative business and organisational development, marketing, and publicity.

Packing the massive trailer to head off to Oudtshoorn and the KKNK recently, Tink sighed and said to me wistfully: “You remember when we used to make theatre on string and bubble-gum?”, harking back to the days where a set was a bucket, or a few umbrellas, and fitted into the boot of a car as did all the performers and tech crew, and not a trailer and mini-bus load.  It is true that our production values have increased (often to the headache of our managers and budgets), and our vocabulary has become more sophisticated, but one thing our work has always been is very rich.  Because it has been made on and by the bodies, hearts, and imaginations of a particularly awesome group of people.  Misfits, clowns, fools the lot of us.  But rich and strong and passionate.  And this will make all the difference.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may not be the biggest company in the world, or the country, and not enough people know about us yet, but the people you see before you tonight, represent perhaps one of the hardest working companies.  I salute you all, as well as our ardent supporters, and extended family, and promise the best is yet to come.”

Here at FTH:K, we have a lot of special people.  We have Board Members and funders and VIP’s and Members and friends and collaborators and audience members and and and…

We’d like to think that we reward everyone for being part of FTH:K’s journey in ways that reflect the various roles that they play. And one of the ways we thank our most loyal supporters is by giving them access to parts of FTH:K that not everyone gets to see. And we don’t mean sneak peeks of the actors changing in their dressing rooms(although…if the price is right…we are an NGO after all…), we mean sneak peeks of work before anyone else gets to see it.

So, for all our Members, Board Members, Funders and industry VIPS’s, this one’s for you! (You’ll be receiving an invitation soon because “exclusive” means “by invitation only”, right??) For those of you who are dying to join in but aren’t one of the people listed above, contact the office for your space, but remember to bring your R100 annual membership fee to the door so you can Join the Family or alas, you won’t be allowed in…

The EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW for Benchmarks will be held:

* on Friday 24th June
* at Theatre in the District
* from 6:00 pm

And if you’re there, you’ll be the first to see it before it heads out to premiere on the Main Programme of the National Arts Festival

Cool, huh??

CONTACT THE OFFICE to book your place



benchmarks2 ONCRM 200

Rehearsals have started and the countdown is on to the opening of FTH:K’s newest associative extravaganza: Benchmarks to be presented on the Main Programme at the National Arts Festival.

a conspiracy of clowns, in association with FTH:K and the National Arts Festival, will knock festino socks off with Benchmarks from 4 to 6 July at Graeme College Theatre, with its small story of great hope and rebirth.

What’s it all about??

A timid middle-aged clerk.  A reclusive widow.  A young Zimbabwean refugee.  In the Mother City, three desperate and lonely individuals get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and reconciliation – one that will ultimately transform their lives forever.

Set against a backdrop of the frailties and complications of human relationships; the violence and hardships of life in South Africa; and the dreams and desires for a better life; Benchmarks is a poetic celebration of the human spirit told by three performers in full character mask.

Ugli says, “Benchmarks explores the possibilities and tragedies of change – the concepts of hope, rebirth and celebration of friendship. As always, we are looking for ways to push boundaries in our story-telling and, for the first time, we are setting the work in a specific place –Cape Town. This enables us to create an exciting interaction between our striking signature visual style and the real world of here and now. Benchmarks tells human stories with themes that will resonant with a contemporary audience”.

WHEN? Monday 4 July at 16h00, Tuesday 5 July at 16h00 and 20h00 and Wednesday 6 July at 16h00 and 20h00
WHERE? Graeme College Theatre
COST? Tickets cost R48 and R32 for students


Who dunnit??

Devised by: the cast from a story by Rob Murray
Directed by: Rob Murray
Cast: Liezl de Kock, Daniel Robinson and Thumeka Mzayiya
Set and Props by: Craig Leo
Mask design and construction by: Cristina Salvoldi
Sound design by: Brydon Bolton and Jacques Toile
Costume design by: Jayne Batzofin
Lighting Design by: Rob Murray

Not going to the NAF??

Feel sad, yes, but not too sad.  Why?  Because Benchmarks will also be performed at Out the Box festival in Cape Town in September this year. If you’re elsewhere in the country, start lobbying at a theatre near you…

*a collaborative blog post between Tink and The Muslim

Group pic 3 Benches was the theme for this year’s Annual Party to herald the coming of our brand new piece, Benchmarks which premieres on the Main Festival at the National Arts Festival (NAF) later this year.

The venue for this years AGM was Kwalapa at the Montebello Arts and Crafts centre, graciously provided the very cool Patrick Schofield. This quaint, crafty venture in Newlands has a tree in the middle of the store, growing through the roof. Perfect for a bunch of crazy clowning misfits that is the FTH:K family. To match the  theme we had picnic food on clothed tables, around the big tree in the middle of the room. We even had a cake with a bench proudly marked FTH:K on it! Complemented with the wonderful wine from Distell, one of our favourite supporters.

Our Trainees presented excerpts of Tales from the Trash and Shortcuts between project reviews.

The outgoing Treasurer presents
Our out-going treasurer, Charles, gave the financial review and contrary to popular opinion on accountants and financial reviews, he was funny. We are very sorry to lose him but wish him all the best on his new journey. (PS to all the single ladies: He is charming, funny, and single; please contact the office for further details ;)

Ugli Bob gave everyone a very handy run down of the FTH:K journey over the last 6 years (can you believe it?! 6 years?!) which will be its own blog post soon because sourcing the artwork from all the various shows is proving pretty time-consuming!

But most important is what’s coming happening in 2011 and what exciting stuff still lies ahead.  The trainee piece Shortcuts has already toured to Gauteng and KZN, and in September will take on the Western Cape…that’s after a performance or two in Washington DC on the Artsbridge International Exchange project.  The Conspiracy of Clowns premiered their new piece Kardiàvale in May (maybe you caught it recently at the Intimate Theatre?) and the Conspiracy together with FTH:K, debuts Benchmarks on the Main Programme at the National Arts Festival. Then there’s the Out The Box Festival (look out for Benchmarks, Kardiàvale and Little Jackie Paper), the Hilton Festival, and finally, in November FTH:K’s newest work Masked In-Tensions on at the Intimate Theatre.

Referring to the company as rich, strong misfits, Rob concluded, “The best is yet to come.”

Onwards and upwards to the next 6 years!

Iets Anders at the KKNK

Tuesday, almost the halfway mark between the beginning and end of the festival. The day when most people arrive and most people leave, making it the busiest day in Oudtshoorn, with most people out enjoying Heinz Winckler at the Huisgenoot tent.

This was the perfect day for Frank and Janet to take some time off and enjoy the festival. Lots of the people their were very happy to see “Ouma en Oupa” or “Hilda en Oubaas” of 7de Laan as some of the kids thought. Here are some clips of their day out:

Frank and Janet’s day out
Frank and Janet make new friends

Tanya and I have spent many hours printing programmes and stapling stickers for the foyer display. A task which can cause staple-thumb but makes our audiences enjoy giving input.

Foyer DisplayAdmiring foyer display









Tara smiled at lots of people. Except while this photo was being taken. Something serious must have happened. Or she’s on Facebook.

Serious Producer Director Faced Tara

Most of the Iets Anders team has been taking a slow day aside from their performances. Three days of storming into the whirlwind Festival spirit has left everyone a little subdued. Even good ol’ Willie has stopped making fun of our Afrikaans while our stage manager, Elmaret, has been caught napping backstage. Elmaret's guilty smile at being caught napping

Meanwhile a debate has slowly been brewing in the newspapers about the KKNK and the amount of English being used… more to follow…

This just in from FTH:K’s Artistic Director, straight from the National Arts Festival:

“Pictures of You was the highest grossing theatre production on the Fringe at Festival this year!  And not only that, but 12th highest on the Fringe across all categories, clocking in healthily behind the comics and other comedies that routinely dominate sales.”

This rocks!  Rocks!  Rocks!

Read what else he has to say about it here.  Me, I’m still focussing on how much this rocks…