Archive for the ‘Industry Thoughts’ Category

Life is changing…constantly. Given that art should reflect life, it only makes sense that theatre companies should also be evolving constantly, and FTH:K certainly is. The newest change that we have taken on is in how we raise our money. You already know about Elred’s Epic Journey, but we have recently added a new tool to the FTH:K box of tricks: Vidamo!

FTHKiPhone4Vidamo As Auntie Ana says (that’s our super-cool CEO), “With the changing nature of the funding landscape both locally and internationally, we have to source new ways of generating income.” Not just a pretty face, hey? Following a call to our supporters to help us find exciting new ways to chase sustainability, we were overwhelmed when an individual sponsor not only introduced us to the Vidamo platform but also pledged to fund the service for us! So cool. “The Vida-what-mo platform??”, you ask. What this means is that, through Vidamo, FTH:K’s fundraising platform can be accessed from your mobile phone or desktop, and is a quick and easy way to support us as we finish off 2012 and move into a new 2013 phase. Yep – you’re just a few clicks away from helping us reach our fundraising goal from the FTH:K Family!

To make a donation, all you need to do is SMS “FTHK” to 45825*, or scan the code which will be available on the FTH:K website early next week. An SMS reply will be sent to your phone instantly with a url link to follow, giving you access to the mobile web platform. You are also able to select from a number of premium-rated SMS options: donate R10, R20 or R30*. Alternatively, you can opt to donate using your credit card. And as if this wasn’t cool enough, on the FTH:K Facebook page you can click on the donation tab to make a donation using the payment platform.

codeAccording to Paulette van Heerden, Account Director at the Vidamo Group, there are 46.4 million mobile users in South Africa, and 14 million people actively using mobile web and data services. She also says a further 6 million desktop users can access the application via the FTH:K website and Facebook page while international users are also able to donate by credit card or through the online platform. Now, if we can get a fraction of these fabulous people to come play with FTH:K, our future looks pretty damn cool! And the added bonus? Vidamo’s platforms also allow us to communicate with our database and manage other services like ticketing and event management. Huh? Huh?? Exactly.

Sine and Elred race 300 So, back to one of our awesome existing supporters, Elred Lawrence, and his Epic Journey. We’re going to use his cycle tour along an ancient pilgrim route in Europe to raise funds for FTH:K and test out our new gadget!

Give it a try. C’mon…you know you wanna…

*45825@R1.50/SMS | 38387@R10/SMS | 40447@R20/SMS | 42116@R30/SMS | Errors billed. T&C’s apply. SMS donations are subject to network and admin deductions.

At a time when so much has been going on in FTH:K’s life, when we are planning tours and performances and festivals and managing national/international expansion, we were gobsmacked to receive the 2011 Fleur du Cap Award for Innovation in Theatre! Literally, (forgive the deep irony) speechless!

We are all feeling so honoured today, if not a little woozy from the celebratory champers, for being recognised as a group who has brought “exceptional originality and creativity to theatre in the Western Cape”. When presenting us with the award, Fleur du Cap judge, Gillian Mitchell, said that FTH:K has “shifted notions of inclusivity and created works of imagination and emotional empathy that have charmed and exhilarated audiences both locally and internationally.” Wow. Just…wow.

We are seriously humbled to hear that. It’s hard not to think back on the past 7 years with an element of disbelief at times like this. So often we are so involved in our juggling act, from dreaming to planning to fundraising to implementing to touring…just focussing on keeping those balls in the air, that we forget to look around and see the broader effects of what we are achieving. Has it really been 7 years?? There are times when we still feel like that little company staggering to its feet, looking around wide-eyed at the very big SA arts environment; so when things like this happen, it takes us by surprise. We almost expect to blink and realise that we misheard, that the award was actually for someone else. But it wasn’t. It was for us. And as we stop and look back at how far we have come, we are reminded of Michael Kaiser’s words that state a hard truth: not in a day; not without failure; not without discipline. But if you can stomach these things, and if, consistently, you can make good art that is well-marketed, there is no end to what you can achieve. Even for a little Deaf and hearing theatre company on the deep south of the African continent.

Arts funding in SA is always a challenge and it is important to take the time to thank those organisations who continue to put their money where their mouth is in supporting the arts. We have so few platforms in SA on which to recognise artistic success and Distell, the FDC judges, and all the various organisations that come together to make this event happen annually should be commended for doing so. Sure, some people had issues with things at this year’s ceremony. I’m sure the organisers will be happy to hear those opinions voiced in a constructive way to help them make the ceremony better or more relevant next year; but these issues shouldn’t be managed in a way that makes the winners feel dirty for having won. That’s just uncool all round.

FTH:K knows it couldn’t have done any of what it does without a host of supporters. As CEO, Ana Lemmer, said on receiving the award: “We are honoured to have received this award and are tingling with pride. In the seven years of our existence, we have embarked on an incredible journey, having had the chance to work with stellar collaborators and gained the trust of Deaf communities in the Western Cape and South Africa. None of what we have achieved would have been possible without our supporters and we take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you to our sponsors, to our creative co-conspirators, to our trainees and to the Deaf communities that have accepted us into their fold”.

So, to all our supporters, from the greater FTH:K Family, from Cape Town to Grahamstown to Washington DC, we salute you! This award is for us all.

Arts Managers need to network, they need to hustle, they need to work a room, they need to suck up their personal differences and play nice for two very important reasons.


1. United We Stand

If the theatre industry is to grow and gain influence, it must band together to stand up against various policies that might negatively affect our work. For example: The Western Cape Education Department is clamping down on excursion procedures. We as the theatre industry have an important relationship with bringing theatre into schools. How will this affect theatre for younger audiences and what are we doing about it?

2. Work Smart

A well-networked theatre company is able to get more done with less energy. Beth Kanter has started a whole empire just telling people about the importance of the Social Network. It raises the importance of network on the online platform and the significance of collaboration. Many hands make light work doesn’t it?

Last night was the ASSITEJ South Africa annual general meeting where Heather Parr was named as the new chairperson! (ASSITEJ is the umbrella organisation for theatre aimed at children and young people.) A very big congrats to her! The ASSITEJ SA board is made up of many a theatre stalwart in South Africa with Yvette Hardie standing as the Director of ASSITEJ and stepping down as chairperson. Yvette is also the President of ASSITEJ International.

What does this mean for theatre South Africa?

It means we’re on the map, a very important intricate map of influential theatre practitioners and festival organisers worldwide within the ASSITEJ community, outside of just the Edinburgh Festival or Canadian fringe circuit. It also gives South African theatre practitioners a chance to work together to bid for the next ASSITEJ  World Congress in 2017, which would fill every theatre in Cape Town. It means developing our own work for that festival. It means international exposure for our companies. It means South African artists have a close link to the president’s office, to open up the doors to theatre festivals world wide, all 100 plus of them.

For FTH:K, represented by Jayne at the AGM, it’s an opportunity to engage with more audiences world wide, as we have found that our work, though directed at adult audiences, often resonates hugely with young people.

In these trying times, where nearly every theatre company in Cape Town is fighting the good fight for funding, there is another aspect of running a theatre company that we should also focus on, particularly as new arts managers come into the business: the building of networks around your company.

Theatre Arts Managers who think outside of their immediate industry, outside of their rehearsal process, are the ones who seem to be making headway in the field.

Let’s get more of our theatre makers on board. Let’s grow the networks and the industry.

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.



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.

So.  We had A Plan.  For the record, we had A Plan, ok??  And it was all written out on a smart Excel doc, with dates and times and activities and relevant people and everything.  But there’s a saying about “best laid plans” and all that, and lo, how true it has rung for us.  Firstly, the PX container, with all our QUACK! and Womb Tide stuff in it didn’t arrive.  However, after much phoning and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it finally got delivered an entire week after it was sent, and a day later than it was needed.  Luckily, The clever Plan (and the awesome Market Theatre technical crew) saw us being ahead of schedule by a day or two.  So, when we finally began, we were a day late for being early but on schedule, in fact.  If that makes sense.

Then, there was a delay in our funding, which meant we couldn’t get paid on payday.  Again, we had A Plan in place, but, you know, funders go on holiday; reports get lost; people with signing-off power go to workshops for days…and the 25th comes and goes…and even the Womb Tide puppet starts worrying.

But all these things we can deal with.  The set arrived and the funding came in today (so drinks on us tomorrow ;-)).  But what are we to do about this strike??  One has to marvel at how NOT PART OF THE PLAN it was for us to be in South Africa’s political hotspot, running a theatre festival that targets schools as 50% of its programme, just when a major strike including teachers, army and police force is about to break out!!!  For the love of theatre, Zuma, if for no other reason, find a decent compromise in the next 2 days!!!

Luckily the QUACK! team had a sense of humour about it all in today’s Tech Rehearsal:

QUACK team strikes

Eish.  Sometimes this job we do is not easy.  In fact, often it’s not easy, but it’s rewarding when it pays off.  And on that we hang our hopes for the coming week.  (Check the pics so far)

Good vibes, everyone, good vibes!

You may or may not know that we have a number of interns that pass through FTH:K annually. As with anything, some are better than others! Some take the work very seriously and get involved in everything, eternally asking questions (Sulo!); some use the time to party their way through Cape Town, stopping on for the odd visit (Max!); some find what they need – just not in FTH:K (Maggie!); and some come to get as sunburnt as possible (Flore!)!! Ok, ok, that’s not all Flore did while with us. In fact, she was great. Coming from Brussels, she was put in touch with us by one of our most awesome funders, Africalia, as a case study in the writing of her thesis entitled: “When Culture Becomes Development – Evaluation of Cultural Projects In Development Aid”. Sounds serious, no? Well, she was serious about it but not at the expense of enjoying Cape Town as fully as possible. In fact, she was so cool that she fitted right into the FTH:K family from the get-go.  Anyway, this post is not to wax lyrical about our various interns (we love you all!) but to share with you some of her thoughts on spending time with us:

“My FTH:K adventure started in 2009, at the Grahamstown Festival. On Wednesday the 8th of July at 18:00, I saw ‘Pictures of you’. How I still know this so detailed? Because I still carry the entrance ticket with me… I have this strange little habit to carry the littlest nicest things of life close with me…. ‘Pictures of you’ touched me, in many ways. It was inspiringly performed, surprisingly detailed, wonderfully made. If I say it was the best performance I saw at the festival it is not because Tanya is holding my hands here while I’m typing. I say it, because I really mean it!

The second part of the adventure started while I was searching for a thesis/case study partner. Because I chose this difficult subject to explain ‘The problem of evaluating cultural/artistic programs in development cooperation’ (‘Could you repeat that please? The problem of … ?’ ), I needed a partner to clarify things a bit, a partner which I could join a period of time, to see how they work and especially what and how they evaluate this work. And there they are again, the masters of clowning appear for the second time in my story! At the end of March 2010 I changed my Moroccan neighbourhood of Schaarbeek for a place with a much cooler name, namely ‘Woodstock’ and left my home city of Brussels for the mother city of South Africa, Cape Town (oh sorry, or is it ‘Ciep Tiawn’, like they scream on the minibuses?)!

On a sunny morning, I entered FTH:K HQ in Observatory with a tomato red coloured head (the African sun was, is and will be hot!) and was warmly welcomed into the company with those lovely South-African hugs (‘Damn, I miss those!’).

From then on, things went fast. I joined the company in all their activities (rehearsals, workshops, meetings, office work…) and tried to see, listen, understand and question as much as possible. And the more I saw, the more I got enthusiastic about their work and the way they do it. This little company manages to change, little by little two separate societies by gathering them together in a magical world of theatre, stories, body language, interaction and laughter. What I saw was a very open and hard working company trying to inspire as much people as possible. And in doing so, they give people, who are too often excluded in society, a chance and a challenge, a tool and a skill.

I take a quote of the great philosopher Michel Foucault to end this little letter of mine. Foucault said:

‘People know what they do, they frequently know why they do what they do, but what they don’t know is what what they do, does.’

Therefore, I see it as a modest goal of my thesis to find a way to clarify what the work of a company as FTH:K does. To let people believe in the importance of their actions and to put their work in a much brighter light, in the spotlight they deserve!” – Flore Deprez

It’s true. And if you don’t believe us, just have a look at some of Toast Coetzer’s pictures below, or visit our Facebook album for the full monty.

This year, our AGM was a kid’s party. Not because we behaved like children (although…) but because we were turning 5! So all FTH:K members hauled out their most kid-like clothes (from Snoopy, to Superman, to nappies, to tutus, to PJ’s – we had it all), Tina from Queen of Tarts made personalised cupcakes, Angela made Chico Clowns and racing cars out of Boudoir Biscuits, Tink made Jelly Oranges (although it seems that not all mums made these for their kid’s parties!) and we even had a game of Pass-the-Parcel – wrapped expertly by Simangele. It was a great evening, one in which we got to reflect on 2009 and all its successes and challenges. If you were there, THANK YOU for being a part of it. We consider it one of the most affirming activities that we hold annually.

For anyone who hasn’t been to an FTH:K AGM, you need to know that we do things a little differently. Usually AGM’s are boring as all hell, right? Right. Which, in the arts, is a curious phenomenon. Seems that in an attempt to “take ourselves seriously” in the business of the arts, arts organisations copy the more traditional business-meeting models and present dry, dull AGM’s. This is insane if you think that by the very nature of what most arts organisations do, we are feeding back on (or should be, anyway) vibrant, exciting projects and programmes. Our AGM’s should follow suit, no? So often, AGM’s are treated as a chore that needs doing only to satisfy certain constitutional obligations, but we like to look at them as excellent marketing opportunities to publicly celebrate the successes of the previous year. Bring in the photographers! Bring in the media! Bring in the VIP’s! Bring in the supporters! Bring in booze and food! Get your performers to perform! Get your audience to engage! After all, it’s just another kind of Opening Night.

Having said all of that, we recognise that FTH:K may not have it right, and people may disagree with how it does things. Wouldn’t be the first time! But we do think we need to remember that we are in the business of the arts when planning meetings like this, and try not to fall into the trap of taking on more traditional business formats in an attempt to be taken seriously. Our work and our honesty towards that work should be enough. And with a turn out of 40+ people this year, we must be doing something right!

See you next year for birthday number 6!