Raising the bar in community theatre
COMMUNITY theatre used to be vibrant, well connected to the communities where it emanated from and dealing with issues that are immediate to the community, with names such as the late Peter Ngwenya and Gibson Kente having been celebrated icons.
However, over the years the status of this kind of theatre has gone down due to lack of funding and skilled directors.
Many a theatre practitioner these days prefers to work within a professional setup, a sector of theatre that seems to attract more funding than community theatre.
Two theatres encouragingly still host community theatre within their programming - the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow and the Market Theatre in Newtown, with the South African State Theatre also having a sporadic programme on community theatre in between professional productions.
Starting from today until this weekend, Hillbrow Theatre is hosting its annual community theatre programme; and today the Windybrow Theatre is launching its Community Theatre Development Programme.
The project is funded by the National Lottery. This is a five months programme where 10 existing community theatre groups are selected through an auditioning process and assigned a mentor who will work with them in developing and enhancing their performance and narrative skills.
Groups were selected from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kimberley and Gauteng. The selected groups are subjected to an intense three weeks of creative and artistic intervention provided by the mentors.
Finally each group is allocated a week's season at the Windybrow Theatre. Among those selected as mentors are Ntshieng Mokgoro, Monaheng Motshabi, Zenzi Mbuli, Kholofelo Kola and Reshoketswe Maredi who will be working closely with Mpho Molepo as the creative director of the project.
The first production to launch the programme is Calabash Runs Dry. This production is about a village that is terrorised by a stranger who comes in to disrupt, corrupt and steal the powers from the calabash.
The play features artist such as Nompumelelo Prudence Mabena, Marvin Mashwayi, Lesego Rikhotso, Phumzile Masiya, Nasie Mtsheni, Simon Mathoe and Samuel Mokoena.
Calabash Runs Dry will perform at the Windybrow from today till December 11, and then it will take a break until next year in February when the other four shows will complete the programme.