Closed Market Theatre comes alive with virtual plays

The historic Market Theatre.
The historic Market Theatre.

With many theatres still on shutdown mode, Market Theatre is bouncing back with virtual plays.

Heeding minister Nathi Mthethwa's call to experiment with virtual work, the theatre has commissioned the production of 10 plays of 15 minutes to be streamed online two weeks from now.

The productions are part of theatre’s initiative called Ditshomo/Story Time and will be written and directed by some of the country's talented artists like Napo Masheane, Palisa Mazamisa, Bobby Rodwell, Sipho Zakwe and Sbu Mamba. 

Directors include Mmabatho Montsho and Mxolisi Masilela while Zikhona Sodlaka, Didie Makobane and Faniswa Yisa will be featured as actors.Market Theatre’s artistic director James Ngcobo said the country might be on a national lockdown but stories are never on pause. 

Ngcobo said:“It is important to carry on with what we are doing as theatres because it is going to be difficult to draw people back to the theatres after this lockdown. The stories are never on pause, how I wake up this morning is a story on its own. We have been spearheading the imitative that Theatre Will Rise again that featured a series of monologues.”

“I have commissioned different stories to continue entertaining our audiences. Some stories are based on our experiencing right now. One of the stories looks at the escalation of the violence as we locked indoors. Napo will write a story about her experience as a mother during the lockdown and Sipho Zakwe is doing the same as a father.” For dance pieces, Ngcobo has added Themba Mbuli and South African dancer Vincent Mantswe who is currently based in Paris.

Meanwhile, Joburg City Theatres, a group which comprises of Joburg Theatre, Roodepoort Theatre and Soweto Theatre, has announced that it will remain closed for live performances until further restrictions were lifted. 

Joburg City Theatres CEO, Xoliswa Nduneni Ngema, said: “Joburg City Theatres understands that this is a difficult period for South African Arts and Culture and the Creative sectors, including our audiences. As JCT we want to keep our audiences entertained and engaged during this Covid-19 lockdown period.

The main priority during these uncertain times is to work with our partners and stakeholders – the Joburg Ballet and Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Poetic Thursday, Music Tutorial programme, showcasing works that were staged in our theatres, as well as our development work.”

South African State Theatre (SAST) in Pretoria has also confirmed that the institution will remain closed for normal activities during stage 4 of Covid-19 lockdown. However, essential services will continue to do some activities in order to prepare for the reopening when the time is right.

“The SAST recognises that Covid-19 has worsened the country’s economic situation and has negatively affected the country’s fight against unemployment, poverty and inequality. "However, the virus provides opportunities as it calls upon all of us to review how we have done things for many years. We needed to think about doing business differently as the old, conventional approaches and systems are rendered obsolete in the interim. Our normal programmes and productions will remain on hold during level 4. We all know that this remains an immeasurable blow to many of our stakeholders that depend on our doors being opened.”

Though the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town remains closed, it has been streaming Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and The Boys production free until May 20. The theatre will also screen local film Moffie.

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