Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

The Art of War“This is my first trip to South Africa…indeed my first time on this mighty African continent!  There were many questions, some nervous excitement, wondering what the culture in South Africa is like and what the Deaf culture is like. Being Asian and now being based in Scotland (Europe) I am fairly familiar with most things Asian and European – but in terms of South Africa, I know/knew nothing!!

Communication was going to be a key issue. I’m becoming fluent in Swedish, British, American and International Sign but before arriving, I wondered how communication might work here: what styles of communication, what language the students I’m working with would be using.  I do work visually – looking at working with the children on developing visual narratives – so was imagining that common/shared language would work for us all. Then I began to consider the age of the group…they are young!

photo3So, meeting the three different groups from Dominican School, I realised there was little to worry about! The children appear to use a mix of Sign (British, American and International) and they have great imagination, and quickly began to think visually so all was good. This is now the 2nd week of my three week residency in Cape Town, working with three different groups at Dominican Deaf School, in Cape Town. Our time together is fairly tight and it is most rewarding to see the groups of children so focussed and engaged for the short time that we have.

At the moment we have begun to look at some skills, exploring how we can communicate visually (without the use of sign language). Following this short period of exploration we will work on presenting a short scratch performance – more like a presentation of ideas explored through improvisation, that the children might like to develop in the future. 

I have been impressed with the eagerness of the children to explore – they have no inhibitions and are confident to share thoughts and ideas. And of course, having some fun.photo1

We did have a bit of a giggle today – communication! I was signing to the children how I thought they were very funny, using American sign. The children found this comment very amusing, more amusing than I thought it was. I was then told that the sign I used for “funny” was the sign that was used here for “ugly”! I’m pleased that the children understood that I didn’t mean to call them ugly…and we all had a giggle at our miscommunication.

It is early days…but I look forward to more of these…

There is something fascinating about working with this age group: young people are so open to exploring and their minds work quite differently from that of adults. I’ve been surprised by the group’s self-assuredness in their own physicality – they were so confident that they could fully explore all ideas in their imagination.  

The groups seem keen and like me are excited about our next workshop together – they ask “When??”.

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Sneak Pictures from Friday’s rehearsal below!

OfficeBLOCK opens on Wednesday, with a preview on Tuesday night.

Rob, our artistic director and award-winning lighting designer will be spending today working out technical cues and once again showing-off his fabulous eye for lighting. Given that 3/4’s of the performers are Deaf, he has to take into account that the Deaf are hugely reliant on their sight and appropriate lighting for balance – especially when climbing on one another!

Jayne has been designing the set and costume. Although Jayne is from historically Joburg, she will give any designer in Cape Town a run for their money with her know-how of Cape Town’s streets,  and her keen eye for design and bargain.

Our newcomer Gali has been lending her hand in the dance department.  Gali Kumwimba nee Malebo, our education co-ordinator, has been involved in musical theatre up in the Free State and has been blessing us with her presence since June.  She is generally the quiet type, that is, until the music starts.

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OfficeBLOCK, is a series of vignettes which details the corporate world, and is also a chance for the public to see the talent we have been harvesting in the form of our trainees Marlon, Christo and Sinethemba. Make no mistake, these are not actors taken because, “ag shame, they’re Deaf” but because their stage presence and physicality is enormously spectacular. This is a chance for the you, the public, to see the value of what FTH:K does, integrating the Deaf and hearing onto one stage. The trainees will perform alongside our Fleur du Cap nominee Liezl de Kock.

This piece will only grow from here and your input is wholly welcome after the show. Next year we take the piece to QuestFest where we integrate with Wings Theatre Company. Following QuestFest we will be bringing the piece to National Arts Festival, to debut on African soil.

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FTH:K is an award-winning company and Ismail Mohamed, National Arts Festival Director, had this to say about FTH:K’s Herbert Dhlomo Naledi Award to Emerging Theatre Company:

“In the presentation of the award the word “emerging” was not to denote newcomer on the block but it was intended to acknowledge a company whose work is giving rise to newly emerging forms of artistic expression, entrepreneurial best practices and a commitment to grow social consciousness through quality driven entertaining theatre productions. The first ever award in this category receives its own sense of value by it being given to a company that celebrates a strong track record of representing the values envisioned by this award.”

Tuesday (1 November 2011), was the Arts and Culture Day showcase at the Dominican school for the Deaf in Wynberg. And it was amazing.  The MEC for Social Development, Albert Fritz, opened the day and it was just great to have him come and recognise the the day!

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Each year, our trainees, Marlon, Christo and Sinethemba are given the opportunity to teach drama to students at the school culminating in an end of year practical exam. Our trainees are being trained in non-verbal visual theatre, groomed to one day join FTH:K as professional members. Their task was to adapt simple children’s stories for stage and this turned out to be hugely entertaining for everyone who came!

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This is now my 3rd year of being a part of the Dominican Arts and Culture Day, and I can say it is the best one yet. The students and trainees are just improving in leaps and bounds! And the Day itself is growing- the addition of the Arts award was just awesome. I always feel so blessed to witness the progress of the Dominican learners- they are truly inspirational! – Jayne Batzofin, FTH:K Theatre Maker

 

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Since last year, the trainees have come a long way and are starting to show strong signs of individuality, style and flair. With a small budget, the trainees purchased props and costume. In an adaptation of ‘Pugwash the Pirate’  all ten actors had their own swords were dressed beautifully in coloured pirate pants and tops. It’s these simple gestures that point to a much larger understanding of theatre-making.

What was awesome to see was the use of space and clear imagery used by all the trainee directors. It is so rewarding to see their training at work. Sitting on the side-lines, us arts managers couldn’t help but realise that the standard of our trainees work has increased dramatically, because of a range of improvements to our curriculum, but also quite importantly, being exposed to Gallaudet University in DC and working with artists at the Quest Visual Theatre Company.

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It’s absolutely amazing and feels so rewarding that our work, with just a handful of Deaf trainees, has been so successful. The potential of what we dreamed of is being realised, and is evident of how much more we can do for the Deaf and theatre. 

The ultimate dream, is to have our trainees compete against any hearing actor in a non-verbal piece. We have successfully managed this in our award-winning pieces QUACK! and Gumbo, and are now transferring these skills to the next generation.

The FTH:K team was thanked by the Dominican School for the Deaf, not just as a procedural event, but for raising the profile of Deaf theatre in the country and for the continuous work done at the school.

This post is for the team: the creative team, the trainees, the learners and teachers at the Dominican and the FTH:K arts managers. Bravo! 

September was Deaf-Awareness Month and last week, we had the crew from the Power Within come to check out our work at the Dominican. They’ll be doing follow up interviews, and our guys will have a chance to claim Andy Warhol’s prophecy, “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” (Not that we haven’t had it before!)

The Dominican School for the Deaf in Wynberg is where we run the Tell-Tale Signs Programme (What is the Tell Tale Signs Programme? ). Currently, our Level 3 trainees, Christo, Marlon and Sinethemba, are developing their directing skills by putting together short pieces for the school’s Arts and Culture day where all the pieces will showcase. We really do pride ourselves on this venture…

Want to check it out? Speak to Angela at the office, on 021 448 2838 for details.

Marlon and Sinethemba being filmed for 'Power Within'.

(The Power Within airs on Saturdays, SABC 3 at 11:30. Right after Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, (RIP) and right before Tina Fey in 30 Rock, keep you posted on the exact date).

And so Andy Warhol should know, 15 minutes, is only the beginning!

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.”

FTH:K is growing. And with all growth comes change. While change can be a little scary, it can also herald in new and exciting possibilities. Such is the kind of change taking place in FTH:K.

As most of you already know, two key people are moving on from the Company for a little while as they pursue career-training opportunities: Company Director Tanya Surtees, and Education Coordinator, Simangele Mabena.

Tanya Surtees2 250 - Toast Coetzer Tanya is heading off to Washington, DC to extend her Arts Management training by working with the Deaf and hearing visual theatre company, Quest, while brokering the exciting 2-year Quest-FTH:K exchange programme called the Artsbridge International Exchange (which forms the basis of FTH:K’s 5-year plan). While it is obviously sad to see her go, we know that she will remain an active part of the family until she comes back to share what she has learnt. It is also an opportunity for her to put her Kennedy Center training to good use by passing on developed, and developing, skills to a new, up-and-coming Arts Manager.

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Enter Ana Lemmer. With an MPhil in Cultural Tourism and Heritage Studies and a BA in Language and Culture, both from Stellenbosch, Ana has a range of experience working in the tourism, arts and heritage sectors. She navigated her way through the various rounds of interviews held by the Company and came up on top as an exciting young Arts Manager, well-capable of taking on Tanya’s role in time. So, from August 2011, look forward to seeing Ana championing the FTH:K cause!

Simangele Mabena - Toast Coetzer 250 The second member of the team to be heading off to foreign lands is Simangele who has been awarded a Sauvé Scholarship in leadership, spending 9 months in Canada to study Integrated Education. This is a huge opportunity for her and FTH:K is very proud of the fact that she was one of the candidates selected – especially as it nominated her for the Scholarship. While her time with FTH:K has been relatively short, Sma has played a vital role in the developing and monitoring of the Company’s education programmes, and leaves behind her a solid programme structure for the new Education Coordinator.

And who is this person?  Let Gali Kumwimba take the stage…

Gali has a BA Honours in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University ofGali the Free State and has been involved in theatre and education for many years. She also has a particular interest in working within the Deaf community and in 2009, astounded us by flying herself down from Bloem just to attend our AGM – normally we have to ply people with alcohol to get them to attend our parties! In 2010, FTH:K reconnected with her through Lady Grey Arts Academy (Company member Liezl’s old school and home town) where Gali was teaching, and when she made the move down to Cape Town with her husband, FTH:K knew they would work with her in time. The time, it would seem, is now!

Bitter-sweet. Happy-sad. Hello-goodbye.  But how cool is it to welcome two new people aboard the FTH:K wagon?! Ahhhh….we are so lucky to be able to grow in the way we are…

But wait, the title of this blog post says something of a party – and in the mists of nostalgia, we forgot to mention that

WE’RE THROWING A PARTY!!!

PartyAhem…yes…FTH:K is throwing a party. Why?? Haven’t you read a word we’ve said?! To say goodbye to old friends, hello to new ones, and bon voyage to the team that leaves in July for the Artsbridge Exchange!! So, if you have been to one of our shows or got involved in our programmes or have reached into your pockets or souls to help up along the way, had any meaningful contact with the company over the years, or simply want to say goodbye, then you’re invited!

WHERE: Theatre in the District
WHEN: Friday 24th June
TIME: 8:30 pm (there will be some formalities so don’t be late!)
DRESS: Anything goes
BRING: A plate of snacks (we’ll take care of some basics, some wine, and make sure there’s a cash bar so we can send some love the way of the Theatre in the District)

It’s important that we know who’s coming so please CONTACT US to let us know if you will be joining us…as well as what you’re bringing so that we don’t get stuck with 400 samoosas as dinner…

See you there!!