Online student theatre festival a virtual triumph

Theatre is taking a new direction by tapping into technology and going online.
Theatre is taking a new direction by tapping into technology and going online.

The Covid-19 outbreak may have caused a lot of disruption to people's lives and had a devastating impact on the economy but it will also be applauded as an era that forced the world to embrace technology.

The world has witnessed film screenings, live concerts, art exhibitions, theatre performances, book readings and discussions happening virtually.

The Iincubator 21: Online Student Theatre Festival is a once-off online festival organised by Pop Art Theatre in Maboneng, with the 50-minute production comprised six shows.

According to one of the festival organisers, Hayleigh Evans, the idea of creating the experimental virtual work began during the lockdown because they wanted to give university students a platform while entertaining the masses in the comfort of their own homes and raise funds for The Market Theatre Laboratory.

Evans tells SowetanLIVE the idea was borrowed from Pop Art's famous concept called 24 Hour Theatre where directors and writers create a 10-minute show that is rehearsed and performed within 24 hours.

"Pop Art is providing a digital platform to host experimental digital stories in a far more relaxed space in our time of separate togetherness.

"We thought this will be our last project since Pop Art is moving [from] where it is in Maboneng.

"We have been staging these shows to raise funds for The Market Theatre Laboratory," Evans says.

"People watched the show free and continue to donate funds. Hosting this festival online is our way to research if people can really support the initiative if we decided to explore the digital route. I cannot lie, the digital format is worth pursuing."

The six productions were written by Phila Madleni, Khanyisile Zwane, Sihle Chiliza, Praise God Dlamini, Mnqobi Molefe and Martin Grendele.

It featured students from Durban University of Technology, Wits University, Tshwane University of Technology, Rhodes University and The Market Theatre Laboratory.

These young actors, directors and writers were mentored by Mwenya Kabwe, Jefferson Tshabalala, Refiloe Lepere, Sibongile Fisher, Monageng Motshabi, Khutjo Green, Kirsten Harris, Roberto Pombo, Chris Djuma, Maude Sandham, and Dintshitile Mashile.

"Since students were sitting at home we decided to engage them through this way," Evans says.

"All participating students from institutions around the country are given the platform to either write, direct or act in plays under the mentorship of allocated mentors during the lockdown."

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