Posts Tagged ‘Benchmarks’

What would theatre be if we didn’t have to constantly remind ourselves that the show must go on, battered, bruised or blind. Here are some of the things which kept us very much on our toes.

1. The Fire Extinguisher Which Wouldn’t

During a performance of Benchmarks at the National Arts Festival, the policeman came out with a fire extinguisher to put out flames, only the pin had not been released, and seconds before the cue, the problem could not be understood, leaving the masked-performer to enter onto stage wildly mimicking a working fire extinguisher.

2. “Turn your flipping phone off! What? Oh…”

During Pictures of You an obtrusive cellphone went off and before the director could evil-eye the alleged perpetrator in the audience, he recognised the ringtone and realised the sound was coming from backstage…

3. Flip Fail

Christo normally completes an impressive back-flip in Shortcuts, except for that one time in America, where he fell on his head, before dusting himself off and carrying on.  Fortunately, his ego was more bruised than anything else.

4. “That bandage was not just part of the show”

Thumeka performed in Benchmarks with an incredibly sprained wrist but  soldiered on through the cold weather in Grahamstown.

5. Tanya Heywood: The Super Sub.

It was just not Thumeka’s year; just before the run of Benchmarks at Out the Box, she was in a car accident which left her on crutches. Instead of pulling the show, Tanya Heywood was called in to replace Thumeka and learned the piece in less than a week. The show went on to win the Handspring Puppetry Award for Best Puppet Manipulation.

Try that for awesome.

6. Blindman’s Bluff

Despite being amazing mask design, the masks for Benchmarks proved to be very difficult to see through, and when Rob’s lighting design was brought into play, the actors were sometimes walking blindly through the set.

And that, boys and girls, is why rehearsals are so important.

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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.”