Archive for the ‘Pictures of You’ 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.


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.”

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…

Iets Anders at the KKNK

Two days and no blogging makes Tanya and Yusrah very busy people.

The venue ran rather smoothly on the first day of the technical rehearsal. Too smoothly. We were convinced everything would go wrong and nothing would be ready for the technicians.

We checked out the venue on Thursday morning (31st March) and found chairs still scattered around and it was missing two lights we had specially requested. We gave  Festival Technical Manager, Pieter-Jan Kapp, better known as Kappie ,a very stern call. Kappie very quickly explained that  his venue technicians were on their way to set up an hour before London Road was due to do their technical rehearsal. What he was really saying was “CALM DOWN”, echoing his previous statement, "Remember this is not the National Arts Festival; this is the ABSA KKNK". Very soon the venue was ready, with technicians on hand (a day before they were initially scheduled to work)

Jon Keevy and his existential crisis

As many festival theatre directors know, things tend to go disastrously

wrong in rehearsal. Perhaps all the anxious energy in the room causes machines to explode (Tara’s rehearsal had two small fires..true story).  Rumpsteak, which is a sound dependent piece with over 800 sound effects, had the CD player crash right at the end of the rehearsal. They had to come in to the venue at 8am the next morning to run a final cue-to-cue rehearsal with a new CD player which Willie had to organise at the crack of dawn.

Willie, by the way, is the venue technician, and "Hy is die kak" – a poorly translated phrase which the Iets Anders team has started to take ownership of (T-shirts to follow…watch this space). But back to Willie; he has spent many an hour on ladders, called in a hit squad to build new flats for Drome van Jou / Pictures of You team,  replaced 3 faulty dimmer packs, and put out 2 small fires caused by said dimmer packs, or anxious director energies.

Willie oppie leer. Heel dag. Drome van Jou had a particularly kak technical rehearsal. They arrived at 5pm and only got to start their tech at 9pm. This was due to faulty dimmer packs (which caused fires) and for the urgent construction of new flats. The flats which were in the venue were so high they covered the precious back lights we were bragging about (see previous entry for details) when they were moved to where Drome van Jou needed them.  Another technician rockstar, Stefan, had to source bars and cut them down to size. When we say cut them down, we mean, cutting through metal bars with an angle grinder creating an elaborate fountain of sparks spewing on the veranda. But shhh! Don’t mention it to the health and safety unit. (Huge thanks Stefan for making it happen.)

Since then, running the venue has been pretty busy with the interactive foyer displays  that we’re getting famous for. Paper and stickers is where it’s at…apparently.

And then there was the partying.

Take it off, Tristan...

For the opening of the festival, Brett Pyper, invited all the artists to a party, but after the long drives and tricky techs, attendance was lower than expected – which was a pity, because the DJ was SO into her job and the Iets Anders team rocked the house. Of course. The following night, after the festival opened however, the same venue was much more alive and we hope Brett throws another awesome opening party next year, but maybe not when everyone wants crash out with fatigue.

  Iets Anders at the Funfair With a stroke whiskey-fuelled luck, the Iets Anders team also discovered the nearby funfair…you know where this is going…yep, we decided it was a great idea to ride the Break-Dancer and Ferris Wheel. Graham and Pieter were bounced off the Ferris wheel for rocking their carriage- WHO gets thrown off a Ferris Wheel? – only an Iets Anders-er. That’s how we roll. We still have tokens left over and plan to puke on the bumper cars later in the week…

Rob and Graham High-Fiving the Iets Anders Team from the ride...And between all of this running about and partying we will see other toneelstukke. Maybe some animals. Liezl has found a tortoise on her stoep, and The Pink Couch went to the zoo. We’re still holding out for some ostriches…

Yusrah admires the locals decision to make hay while the sun shines 2 venue managers.  1 twin cab.  5 people.  480 kms.  1 bottle of tequila.  That’s right, folks.  The Iets Anders venue managers, Tanya and I (Yusrah) headed up to Oudtshoorn yesterday, three whole days before the KKNK is due to start on the 2nd on April. While this would give us time to settle in, mingle with the locals and check out the scene, it also meant being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 in the morning to arrive at noon. Bundled into the twin-cab Toyota Hilux and armed with padkos (thanks, Ugli!), we set off for the town famous for Ostriches.

Stopping along the way for the mandatory petrol and bathroom breaks, we looked at the overpriced sunglasses, admired farm trucks stacked with bails of hay, translated signs from Afrikaans, picked out misspelled signs and had the locals stares at Tanya’s tattoos. After the 8th double-take, she is currently considering wearing longer shorts.

Reaching the big-O, in the semi-desert, it was hot with a few refreshing drops of rain. I exchanged my long pants for shorts, but had no tattoos to reveal, managing to blend in a little more than Tanya…

The Venue - before... As soon as we had unpacked, we went and checked out the South Cape College or the Suid Kaap Kollege which will soon become the Iets Anders home. It’s on the corner of Adderly and Voortrekker, just down the road from the head office. Location, location, location!  The theatre space is the converted school hall with raked seating, black curtains, AND bless, the ABSA KKNK, air-conditioning too.

The lighting rig that has been set up on a box rig which boasts front, side and back lighting. This gem of a structure lets our lighting designers light the performances from four sides, allowing them to flex their design muscle and create mood and shape. In venues which are converted to the theatre spaces, it is often tricky to install a full lighting rig and lighting designers are only given bars across the front of the stage to play with. This typically means only lighting a production from one side and makes the people on stage look flat. A box rig will probably make our technical crew happy and this makes us happy since techies are often, well, left in the dark.

Leaving the venue, we popped in at the Festival Office to give ‘aangename kennis’. The Festival H-Q is positioned on the intersection of the two major main roads in Oudsthoorn, at the intersection of Voortrekker and Baron van Rheede (in case you’re in the area). Anticipating a crazy office, with people frantically putting together last minute operations ahead of the festival’s opening on Saturday, the atmosphere was surprisingly calm. Festival Director, Brett Pyper, had time to chat and welcome us to Oudsthoorn. He didn’t look like a man running one of the biggest festivals in the country (or one of the biggest things to hit the country, as it was explained to us by a local) which was expected to open in two days time. He was reassured and accommodating. As everyone in Oudtshoorn has been thus far. Maybe it’s all the fresh air.

We got to bed at a decent hour, and enjoyed the calm before today’s first technical rehearsal.  Aside from the Flying Ostrich cheese shop, their have been no signs of any real ostriches yet.  But watch this space for details…

Once more, this blog is about to become schizophrenic!  The full team is still in the National Arts Festival while our Company Director (that’s me!) gets ready to head off for her final year at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.  And I know that many of you remember that she was there because this blog has never had as many hits as it did last year when I was there!

So, if the themes of the blog seem to be all about DC and Arts Management, and are written in the first person, you’ll know why!

But while I’ve got your attention, I thought I’d fill you in on the NAF so long.  Not that you had any doubts, but In can say that we have been rocking at the National Arts Festival over the past 10 days.  Was the extra-long Fest a success?  Well, the jury’s still out on that and I imagine the experience of that first week of Fest is going to differ hugely from Main to Arena to Fringe to individual productions.  Our experience of that extended first week was something that I think might be symbolic of the theatre environment in general.  It’s not that there were no audiences out there, or that they weren’t buying tickets.  There were.  And they were.  Simply put, they were just being more discerning with where they put their money.  That’s not to say that anyone who struggled with houses was presenting a kak show.  It means that they weren’t getting the word out about their show, that’s all.  More and more, we as artists have to get cleverer and more strategic about how we tell people about the work we are making.  Especially when at the Macro of live performance that is the National Arts Festival.

Anyway, Womb Tide played in the first week and caused quite a stir. We played to packed houses and excited audiences, with people being moved to tears and moved to become members!  It was very affirming.  Check out out Facebook page for what the critics had to say.

Currently, QUACK! and Pictures of You are burning up the Cape Town Edge platform and once they’re done, Womb Tide and Pictures of You take on the National School’s Festival!  Yes, I’ll say it once more: we work haaaaaaaaaaaaaard for the money!!

So, with that, I have to go and pack, having realised that my plane leaves at 2 pm tomorrow, not 6 pm as I thought!  Next you hear from me, I’ll be in the US of A…but the NAF team will keep you updated on their progress beyond, I’m sure…

I’ll leave you with the face of FTH:K’s future: our Trainees at the Long Table!

Christo at NAF 200 Marlon at NAF 200 Tomri at NAF 200

Thousands of tickets sold! Well, that’s what we’re hoping for anyway…

But it’s true. FTH:K is taking 3 different shows to the National Arts Festival this year, so everyone should find something they like from our rep. Womb Tide will be playing on the Festival’s new Arena Programme, while both QUACK! and Pictures of You will be back on the Fringe as part of the 2010 Cape Town Edge Programme.

Here are the details:

Wombtide on black

  • DATES: 22nd – 25th June 2010
  • TIMES: 22nd @ 12pm; 23rd @ 3pm & 9pm; 24th @ 6pm; 25th @ 3pm
  • VENUE: Loerie Hangar (Arena Programme)
  • QUACK cropped inverted

    • DATES: 27th June – 3rd July 2010
    • TIMES: 2 pm daily
    • VENUE: The Princess Alice Hall (as part of the Cape Town Edge)
    • BOOK NOW!

    pictures title 200 ONCRM

  • DATES: 27th June – 3rd July 2010
  • TIMES: 8 pm daily
  • VENUE: The Princess Alice Hall (as part of the Cape Town Edge)