Today marks the South African State Theatre’s 37th anniversary! The theatre has enjoyed a colourful history that has moulded it into what we see today.
“Thirty-seven years is actually like the first year of a new State Theatre that is poised for greater things to come – which means being a Pan African theatre that represents us as South Africa, also capturing the imagination of our people not only in SA but the diaspora. So, we say happy thirty-seven and first year of new vision, identity and direction of a Pan African Theatre,” says Mkhize.
The theatre complex opened in May 1981 and has since been home to shows like Cats, Sarafina! The Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, Shaka Zulu, to name only a few. The South African State Theatre has an important and necessary part to play in cultural development and is here to stay. The main objective being to make theatre accessible to everyone.
The State Theatre entered the new 2018/19 financial year with a newly elected board lead by Chairperson Professor Fikile N.M. Mazibuko. The new board members include Dr Matshediso Joy Ndlovu, Ms Nkosazana Tebogo Mosala, Mr Bernard Jay, with returning Ms Madile Mofammere, Ms Shamila Singh, Mr Tebogo Mphuti and Mr Sylvester Chauke. The board brings experience that will assist the transformation that the theatre is currently undergoing to go beyond our borders and adopt a Pan African outlook.
Patrons can look forward to an engaging, captivating programme the new season brings. Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be celebrating the Centenary of Nelson Mandela with 3 performances in early June. This group just returned for a home tour after winning their fifth Grammy Award.
To celebrate ‘Africa Month’ a new play entitled ‘Refugees’ is currently running at the theatre along with other African content from the likes of Medleko and The Journey of the Drum and the SAST Youth Choir.
‘The Fall,’ an award-winning production by seven University of Cape Town Drama graduates who share their experiences during the #RhodesMustFall and subsequent student movements, will be part of this year’s Youth Expression Festival in June. The festival will this year mark 10 years of empowering youth talent in South Africa. This festival is a celebration of the youth’s creative spirit that remembers the past, while reflecting on the current state of affairs and interrogating the hopes for tomorrow.
For Jazz lovers, there are two programmes that are rotating bi-weekly at the Rendezvous Theatre. ‘Song and Rhythms’, and Jazz and African Music Nights are enchanting revellers with fresh melodies from different jazz artists both young and old. The sport comedian, ‘Tips and Toes’, Shampoonaiza is has become a popular show on the last Saturday of every month. In August, the Annual Women in the arts Festival, Vavasati will take place as it has for the past few years. There are also a few more surprizes to come.
The 2017/18 season’s curtain call was the world premiere of the new Fees Must Fall musical ‘Freedom’ which attracted a young, youthful audience into the theatre. Marikana – The Musical saw its 3rd return since the world premiere in 2012 at the theatre and the crowds could still not get enough.
The State Theatre prides itself in opening the doors of theatre to young people on stage, behind the scenes and in the audience. In recent years, the theatre has been on a journey of developing young cadre of artist to carry on the baton, preparing them to steer the institution into its rightful place in the future, that being the Leading Pan African Performing Arts Centre across the globe. This dream is slowly but surely becoming a reality.
Youth Programmes such as the Department of Arts and Culture funded Incubator Programme, Youth Expression Festival, and CADO (Arts Dramaturgy Outreach Programme) are successfully supporting the mandate on development. The Afrikaans “AS” play by Janes Erasmus won Best Production Cutting Edge at the Naledi Awards. The theatre had 21 nominations. A performance Arts by Calvin Ratladi was taken to the National Arts Festival and won a Standard Bank Ovation Award. This year’s KIU by Mduduzi Nhlapo is going to the National Arts Festival.
During the year the theatre will also be embarking on construction projects to uplift the image of the building to represent the new Pan African Identity. The theatre will continue to run, as the renovations will go through scheduled phases. The State Theatre will also be renaming many of its facilities with names of people it wishes to recognise.
As the state funded agency supporting the Arts, Culture and Recreation mandate of the country, the theatre cannot only survive on government grants alone. Funding still continues to be a challenge! An important objective is therefore to form more partnerships with the private sector to invest in the artistic mission. It is also vital that the theatre builds and expands its theatre going population to represent the countries demographics.
In its 37th year, the theatre will see many changes, more fantastic productions and wonderful growth for itself as an institution and those within it. It is more than just a theatre. It is a place where stories come to life where there is something for everyone to enjoy! Here’s to many more!