Posts Tagged ‘FTH:K’

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??”.

CWB learnersWe have told you about the new partnerships that FTH:K has launched, right, and one of the projects on which we are collaborating is our National Deaf Education Tour (NDET). We ran our first tour in 2006 and since then, have run one every year, reaching more than 25 000 youths, of which 70% have been Deaf or hard of hearing. Together with Clowns Without Borders SA, Dominican School for Deaf Children in Wittebome, Cape Town, and international Deaf artist, Ramesh Meyyappan, FTH:K is running its National Tour again sharing with Deaf learners across the country the magic of live performance and the fun of theatre skills.

CWB groupNow, you obviously know who FTH:K is, and we’re sure you’re familiar with our work at Dominican School through our Tell-Tale Signs Programme, but what about Clowns Without Borders? Well, they are a group of…clowns…obviously…but not just any old buncha clowns. They are a group that has reached over 200,000 children and adults in communities affected by violence, disease, natural disasters, and poverty, and by presenting free performances throughout Southern Africa, they use physical comedy, music, storytelling, and dance, to provide momentary relief to people in these affected environments. Yeah. They’re awesome.

The Art of WarAnd this Ramesh guy? Ramesh Meyyappan is a Deaf theatre practitioner, based in Scotland, who creates performances using an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre styles. Despite using little to no language in his work, he creates strong narrative performances and recently even added circus techniques to his theatrical visual vocabulary. His works have been toured to Austria, Australia, Cambodia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States to name just a few…and now, South Africa! And we met him through our American partners, Quest Visual Theatre.

The Tour itself

The first leg of the 2013 NDET runs until 24 May at the Dominican School for Deaf Children where Ramesh will be running a 3-week residency programme in visual theatre with the Deaf learners. He’s teaming up with long-standing FTH:K friend and collaborator Sjaka Septembir to create a work-in-progress which will culminate in a series of showcases at the school’s annual Arts and Culture Day on 1 November.

The second phase brings together new and old collaborators. The new? The fabulous Clowns Without Borders SA. The old? Previous FTH:K Artistic Director, Jayne Batzofin, and a number of schools in KZN and the Free State with whom we have both long-standing relationships and new, burgeoning ones. The clowns have devised a new production that they are taking around KZN and the Free State from 06 to 24 May.

But it’s important to note that the NDET is not just about performing a show and then leaving again. As our awesome CEO Ana Lemmer says, “One of our objectives is to give the Deaf access not only to theatre and theatre skills, but also to develop skills in areas related to drama, literacy, self-confidence and team work, as well as developing future audiences. We are particularly inspired about our new partnerships as these will enable us to reach new heights in line with those objectives.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, an additional coolness is that Deaf FTH:K graduates Marlon Snyders, Christopher Beukes and Sinethemba Mgebisa will also be working with Ramesh while he is in the country, benefitting from the exchange not only creatively but also in personal growth as Ramesh himself is testimony of what is possible in Deaf performance. You guys will remember Marlon, Christopher and Sinethemba as being Trainees on our Tell-Tale Signs training programme’s Integrated Professional Development Programme, dazzling audiences with their performances in OfficeBLOCK, before graduating from the programme in 2012.

So, there you go, okes. We’ll keep you posted on how the project is going so, as always watch this space!

Listen Eyes buttons white backgroundYes, everyone! South Africa’s premier Deaf and hearing theatre company is back on tour with new and exciting partnerships and programmes. As you know, from 2005 – 2012 we operated as the only full-time theatre company of its kind in the country. Well, in 2013 we decided to shake things up again and started a process of restructuring ourselves in recognition of the internal changes in the company as well as the changing environment of Arts and Culture both nationally and internationally. Huh?! In short, it means that we have ditched the bricks-and-mortar elements of the company in favour of broader, more exciting programming, and are focussing strongly on national and international collaboration. While there might not be groups out there doing exactly what we do, there are people who share the same artistic and educational goals. And with money in the industry getting tighter than a lug nut, it becomes almost irresponsible not to partner with like-minded organisations to share resources and maximise achievements. So, with satellite offices in Cape Town, Grahamstown, and Washington, DC, FTH:K has adopted the idea of a global village and truly gone mobile!

We had a good long think about what we do, what we stand for, and what inspires us to come to work every morning, and we realised three things: 1) that we want to make visual theatre, 2) that we believe we have a meaningful role to play in education, specifically within the Deaf communities, and 3) that 1 and 2 are not mutually exclusive ideas. In many ways it is a mirroring of how FTH:K started in the first place, just without the jugs of Bavarian Lager. So once more, we have adapted and are back on tour to bring the magic of FTH:K to the world and (with apologies to SAA) to bring the world to FTH:K!

We have some awesome new partners who have joined us this year including Deaf performer and educator Ramesh Meyyappan and Clowns Without Borders South Africa, while our international relationship with Quest Visual Theatre has strengthened significantly. Dominican School for Deaf Children – where we started our very first programme years ago – remains with us in a newly revised approach to our Tell-Tale Signs Programme, and Sjaka Septembir is heading up the teaching on that. Of course, SLED are still our go-to guys in so many language-based areas. And let’s not forget all the Deaf and hearing schools, organisations and institutions around the country that we work with every year.

So, has FTH:K changed? In some ways. Is it still innovating? Is it still inspiring? Is it still finding exciting ways to COMMUNICATE * EDUCATE * and FASCINATE? You better believe it! So here we go, guys. It’s time for a new and exciting FTH:K adventure!

It’s the little things that count. These are the things that make us family, and in the words of Tink, “If we don’t laugh at ourselves, someone else will.”

10. Our resident Rocky.

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Christo ran all the way up these stairs of the Lincoln Memorial doing the Rocky. How could you resist?

9. A Muslim falls off a chair.

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Do not, at any point try to sit on the bottom part of this chair and then attempt to make yourself more comfortable: You will slip and fall on your arse, as our online manager found out one day.

8.  A Cold Shower at Midnight

Trailer

Just before leaving Grahamstown, Tanya, Angela and Ana got a nasty wake-up call. They were pulling the trailer towards the back of the van and as they put it down to fix it onto the ball hitch, the rain water which had been sitting on the top of the trailer after a very wet season at the festival came rushing forward and splashing down on them!

7. Channelling Napolean

Rob Napolean

Having broken his collar-bone Ugli was to direct Benchmarks with just one arm, and in so doing, became a very tall version of Napolean. Needless to say, the cast wasted no time in outvoting him at every chance by calling: “All in favour raise your right hand.” (See the picture with Ugli on the far right, just..trying..to..play..with!)

6. Finding the perfect nickname for Gali

GaliBarbie

Nuff said.

5. That time ‘Sober-Dan’ nicked the mirror on the hired car.

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So we’re leaving the Naledi’s, pretty smashed after going through the whole ceremony thinking that we were nominated for all these awards and travelled all the way to JHB, to win nothing, when right at the very end, they announce a brand new category for Best Emerging Company, which we win. At this point the highs and lows are swallowed with a lot of spirit-s, making most of us incapable of driving. When we finally left, our designated driver, our sober Dan, our most capable and responsible member of our team at the time, got behind the wheel and slowly reversed the hired-car’s side mirror straight into a pole.

4. One breezy night, a 6-foot tall man changed a tyre in a kilt.

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To add to the car woes of the Naledi night, the car also had a slow puncture and needed a tyre change. Who better than a 6-foot tall, strong man, in a kilt?

3. “Does André have an accent?”

andre

Tink: Angela, does Andre have an accent?

Angela: Well, he is Afrikaans.

2. “It’s a Blowjob Tart”

Tanya brought milk tart to the Pot Luck in DC. When asked what it was, she signed “Milk Tart”. The South African sign for “milk” is the same as the American sign for “blowjob”. Blowjob Tart – a traditional South African dessert.

1. When Rodney from Benchmarks spent a little too much time in the park.

For the opening of Out the Box Festival, a puppet procession was organised to walk through Obz and finish on the Village Green, i.e. the park opposite Spar where the bergies take lunch. That was where Rodney ran into the Queen of Obz who fell head over heels for him and tried to bag her prince. The video is priceless and so worth the bandwidth. Watch how Daniel who plays Rodney goes to find his real wife for safety!

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.

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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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.”