The Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival, hosted by the Hillbrow Theatre Project, Joburg, celebrates its 12th anniversary from September 2-10.
This year’s festival is presented in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), the Market Theatre Laboratory, Assitej South African and the City of Johannesburg. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the festival’s proud participation in the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival.
The Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival is pleased to announce that a record-breaking number of 39 schools will be participating in this year’s festival. This means that a total of 585 learners will be performing on the stage of this unique festival. Of these 39 schools, 31 are Inner-City Schools. The festival has extended its reach to include schools from further afield. These include four schools from Soweto, three from Vereeniging and one from Sandringham.
The festival’s impact extends far beyond the nine days of performances as it involves an extensive outreach programme that precedes the festival. This outreach programme was initiated as a response to the reality that most inner-city high schools offer little to no arts and culture education. Learners are therefore unable to partake in cultural activities as part of their education or investigate possible future careers in the arts through exposure to arts and culture training. The festival was therefore developed with the intention of bringing dramatic arts experiences and skills into inner-city schools.
The festival’s outreach programme is designed to provide drama training to inner-city learners and to assist, guide and mentor them in the production of the plays that they enter into the festival. This outreach programme is made up of 31 facilitators who go into inner-city schools to work with the learners on a weekly basis. Facilitators are made up of a combination of facilitators from the Hillbrow Theatre Project, young artists working in the city and second-year Market Theatre Laboratory students. The festival has furthermore employed fifteen former Market Theatre Laboratory students to work in various schools. This is a point of pride for the festival as it is now able to provide work opportunities for young artists in the city.
This year acclaimed director and actor, Mncendisi Shabangu, inspired the facilitators in a three-day workshop on directing and playmaking. The second-year Market Theatre Laboratory students also received workshops on directing, facilitation skills, design, scriptwriting and playmaking.
The festival pays tribute to the 40th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising this year with its theme: ‘Belonging – can I be who I am at school’. Each year the festival is given a broad theme which gives focus, direction and inspiration to the process of creating an original play. The teachers and facilitators engage the learners in exploring and researching ideas related to the theme. They are invited to investigate and unpack the ideas and stories that may emerge from this year’s theme as they answer the questions: How is my culture, sexuality, gender, belief systems and language supported or negated at school? And, how has my school changed me?
There are two exciting new developments for the 2016 Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival. The first is the inclusion of the Sizwile School for the Deaf from Soweto. This is the first time that a school for Deaf learners will participate in the festival. Facilitators Cherae Halley and John Meletse will facilitate the process to create an original play for the festival with the learners from Sizwile School for the Deaf. Halley is an Applied Drama Practitioner, actor and graduate of the Drama for Life Programme and Meletse, born Deaf, is a theatre education, development and Training Officer with GALA (Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action) and a leading figure within the deaf and gay rights community in South Africa.
The second exciting development is that the National Lotteries Commission of South Africa (NLCSA) will be supporting the XchangeTheatre Festival in partnership with Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival. This is a new festival that will showcase and celebrate the abundant talent of Johannesburg’s high school learners. The city boasts no less than eight festivals where young performers compete against each other on stage. This year, through the support of the NLCSA, the XchangeTheatre Festival will bring the stand-out talent of seven different festivals together for the first time.
The participating festivals include: FEDA (Festival of Excellence in Dramatic Arts), EADS (Edenvale Acting and Drama Society), Olive Tree Schools Festival (Alex), RAPS Festival, Indalo Inter-Schools Festival (Tembisa), Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival and the South Africa Shakespeare Schools Festival. The XchangeTheatre Festival will become a platform where these diverse communities of creative learners are able to interact and share their skills and experience.
Dumisani Dlamini, acclaimed actor and former Hillbrow Theatre Project member, remains the loyal Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival Ambassador and has already visited each of the inner-city schools in order to encourage learners in their play creation and to inspire their creative journeys.
The 2016 Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival adjudicators will be Mpho Molepo, Nqobile Sipamla, Asanda Foji and Bheki Mkhwane.
“If you ever want to know what the hopes, fears and dreams of the young people of the vibrant, violent, ruthless and philosophically charged city of Johannesburg are, then this festival is not to be missed.” – Janet Watts, Tshikululu Social Investments – RMB Client Relationship Manager