Archive for the ‘Benchmarks’ Category

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.

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When Thumeka broke her leg, Benchmarks won an award, bringing fresh perspective to the idiom, “Break a leg”.

(It’s not broken-broken, it’s really badly bruised and swollen because some loser drove badly, but the point is, she can’t walk on it, and in theatre, it’s as good as broken, Thumeka played the character Hope and was replaced by Tanya Heywood for the Out The Box run of Benchmarks.)

Ugli Bob, The Shadow in The Background, Jayne Centre Row on the Far left, and the rest of the Benchmarks Crew bearing their characters masks

FYI: “Break a leg” has no definite origin but what is suspected is that breaking a leg refers to breaking onto stage past the curtains that hide the wings, curtains which are known as legs.

The Handspring Awards rounded up the Out the Box Festival on Sunday the 11th of September at the Little Theatre. Handing out the awards were Janni Younge and Chuma Sopotela. Puppets, according to Handspring, are objects manipulated before an audience meaning that masks then also fall under this category.

Here’s what they awarded us:

The Best Visual Theatre Production:

  • Nominees: Benchmarks, Door, Inua
  • Winner: Inua (Adult Festival) presented by Jori Snell and the Baba Yaga Theatre is a search for the essence (the inua) of things spiritual, emotional, physical.

The Best Puppet Design:

  • Nominees: Cristina Salvoldi for Benchmarks, Hillette Stapelberg and Illka Louw for Isangqa/Sirkelpad, Gavin Younge for After Cardenio
  • Winner: Gavin Younge for After Cardenio (Adult Festival), written and directed by Jane Taylor in collaboration with Gavin Younge, Aja Marneweck and Paper Body Collective, is an imagined reworking of the historically archived “missing” play, Cardenio, one of the last pieces Shakespeare wrote.

The Best Puppet Manipulation:

Jane Taylor, Ugli Bob and the fastest hand in the world.

  • Nominees: Benchmarks, Massacre de Mueda, Sadako
  • Winner: Benchmarks (Adult Festival) presented by FTH:K is about three desperate and lonely individuals who get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and reconciliation.
(Taken from the Out The Box Website)

And last but not least, FTH:K aslo won a small but very important token of appreciation from the Nuwe Hoop Centre for the Hearing Impaired out in Worcester where we have been touring with workshops and shows for years.

Gali with our token of appreciation from Nuwe Hoop!

This is showbiz, and applauses like these mean we must be doing something right.

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.

Non – Verbal  101.

“Peace!”

or

“V for Victory”

“Well done!”

or

“Can I get a ride?”

or

“Let the gladiator live”

Your mother.

One day, Oke and China were chatting.

“Howzit bru, check, you must come check this show, Benchmarks, at Out the Box Festival on the 8th and 9th of September, it’s this non-verbal.. “

“Non-verbal?”

“Ya, they don’t use words.”

“Ag no man, “

“Just listen, Benchmarks is”

“Benchmarks? I’ll out bench you and your man-sister.”

“Not that kind bench man, and my sister will moer you. “

“Did she say something about me?”

“No man, why?”

“Just asking”

“So ya, this the new show from FTH:K, was on the National Arts Main Programme, which means they are like the kak of theatre.”

“The kak?”

“Like the shit but..”

“Die kak.”

“KKNK thing. “

“Righto. With you.”

“Anyway, they do non-verbal visual theatre, each of the performers wears these flippin’ amazing masks”

 “Wait, wait, wait, go back what is ‘non-verbal’?”

“Yeah, something about hearing with your eyes,”

“Hearing with your eyes? No man. Is this this new girlfriend of yours, making you watch this poefde stuff.”

“Poefde? Who you calling a poefde?”

You used to hate art man

“Yeah but this was like.. you know, cool. (PAUSE) They do this fokking funny thing with Single Ladies ey, you will laugh.”

“Hahaha, that’s what you used to do, funny things to single ladies, before you met that culture-vulture woman of yours,  turning you into a poefde. I’d rather date your sister than your lady.”

“Hey china, I’m warning you,

Poefde is a offensive term.”

“AN Offensive term.

What?”

“You know I hate it when you correct me”

“Okay, okay man, what about this non-word-al”

“Non-verbal. They make all their shows so that they be heard by the Deaf okes and people that can hear.”

“The Deaf can’t hear you poephol.”

“It’s simile, no, a metaphor, like, like..”

“Tata Ma’Chance Tata Ma Millions”

“Isn’t that the Lotto slogan? Is that also a metaphor?”

(PAUSE)

“Similar, similar”

“Similar ya no def.”

(PAUSE)

“So yah Benchmarks ey… it’s about these 3 people, a oke at Home Affairs, a beautiful old lady and this refugee, all misplaced, all in masks, all looking for…”

“So now do they use sign-language?”

“No.. it’s non-verbal…”

“Fok man, what do you mean non-verbal?”

“Listen with your eyes bru, like check:”

“Listen with your eyes. So you going to come?”

“Ya no cool, flip, hundreds, but ya so, can your sister come?

 
Benchmarks

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

OR

CLICK HERE TO BOOK for the NAF

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
AGE?PG 16
COST? Tickets cost R48 and R32 for students

CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW!!

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…