Archive for the ‘Shortcuts’ Category

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.

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FTH:K is cursed when it comes to weather. There’s a saying in the company: How do you know it’s FTH:K’s move-in day? It’s raining. It will be the day we have to pull our wooden set across the country and risk exposure to rain and warping, and then we the people packing the set into the trailer, will get wet. Time and time again. Heading to Washington D.C., we thought we had left our weather woes at the National Arts Festival, when could you believe it, we arrived in Washington where, far from wet misery, is experiencing it’s hottest weather in 10 years.

Outside of our climate adapting, it has been a great trip so far, rubbing shoulders with our Yankee counterparts. We’ve toured Gallaudet University, a University for the Deaf in D.C, and bonded with the good people of Quest Visual Theatre.

FTH:K was invited to perform at the opening ceremony of the World Friendship Volleyball Games which is currently being hosted by Gallaudet University. Random, I know.

What made it particularly cool was that, this audience of sporty people took to the snippet of Shortcuts so well. Even though there was a scary moment and where Christo hit the ground with his head instead of his feet (He’s alright now!)

Naturally, going to America, there was trepidation about what kind of food we might encounter (flashes of SuperSize Me) but even our resident Vegan, Jayne, has, despite her initial hesitations, enjoyed many great salads and been introduced to other Vegans. Tink says she has found the greatest beans known to mankind at the Red Hot & Blue.

Back in South Africa there’s the incredible BASA awards happening at the end of August, where three of our supporters are up for awards, in recognition of their support of FTH:K. The Citizen, up in Jozi, was instrumental in aiding our Listen With Your Eyes tour at the Market Theatre last year, as was Distell who has been a fabulous supporter since the beginning. Also, in that list was Pretoria Portland Cement (commonly known as PPC: useful trivia which might be the deciding point in your next General Knowledge Quiz), who sponsored our National Tour of Tales From the Trash last year.


How cool is it to have your sponsors get an award for doing the good work they do!?

We’ve had so many things change round this month, but one who has not even received a mention, was our blessed dinosaur; our photocopy machine, Beast. It was a quick and quiet funeral, and in a brief sermon held by Ma Ang and Ana, our photocopier was laid to rest. Beast was responsible for many an FTH:K programme, funding application and report but after several paper jams, botched copies, and failures to turn on, it was time to go. Beast has since been replaced by Beauty, but his hard work and loyalty, will not be forgotten.

In trying to take over the world, taking knocks is part of the game. So here’s to the uncomfortable weather and the dying office equipment, the FTH:K dream goes on!

More from D.C. to follow…

 
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.”

*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!