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Themes were varied and standards high in the one-act plays presented at Sancta 36th One-Act Play Festival held in Secunda from February 13-18.
The SA National Community Theatre Association was held in the Basement Theatre, Lake Umuzi Waterfront, Secunda, Mpumalanga, sponsored by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation, Sasol, Secunda and the Samro Foundation which has sponsored the adjudicators since 2000.
The themes of the plays were varied and up to date, from health issues to womens’ rights, gender issues, albinism, kids with artistic dreams, sangomas vs Western medicine; prison life; a modern African Romeo and Juliet and a humorous farce. Costumes were modern or coloured African Traditional, considering some plays were set outside South Africa.
The adjudicators, who travelled 360km daily from Johannesburg and Pretoria daily, were Karin van der Laag of Isidingo fame, Quintin Wils and Vianney Farmer, all industry professionals with numerous accolades to their names.
Karin van der Laag has performed in every genre of the arts on stage, local and overseas films and TV, with many nominations and awards, going back to the FNB National Vita awards.
Quintin Wils and Vianney Farmer, only three years out of Tshwane University of Technology with honours degrees, have written, directed, acted in numerous productions, with over 20 productions and nominations for 35 awards, including three Naledi Awards, between them.
They also started a new genre of “Cutting Edge”- Mobile Thriller Productions (The Naledis) such as ONSkuld and aLEXA and directed and acted in the sold-out houses of Porselein at The State Theatre last year. Some of their 2016 productions performed in Pretoria, at The National Arts Festival, The Baxter Theatre and Die Woordfees are still touring South Africa. They are both Board members of VNA Productions. Quintin is theatre manager of the new Eldo Little Theatre in Pretoria and Vianney is editor-in-chief of the SA theatre magazine (SAT-MAG) publishing monthly.
This year Sancta went back to its usual format of a play of 30 to 45 minutes, but with only 6 actors and 3 backstage personnel.
The adjudicators gave a fresh and new approach to their nightly verbal critiques, including demonstrating simple techniques to rectify common mistakes, which was much appreciated. The high standard was evident in the fact that four plays were chosen to be performed at the Gala Evening instead of the usual three.
Each group had a two-hour technical rehearsal with Sancta’s resident festival manager, Barry Neuwerth, and lighting expert Gordon Reid before their performances. Sancta also thanks Rory and the Highveld High School for accommodation and meals.
One of the main reasons for the high standard was the 4 2-day 10-Minute Play Writing Courses by Swannie Swanevelder, based on an American concept, attended by 20 prospective play writers from all over Gert Sibande Region. They learnt the basics of writing a play with characterisation, a plot and a climax and how to type up a script in the proper format.
In 2016 the five principal playwriters from the festival were sent to The National Arts Festival to attend a Remix/ Wits University “Drama for Life Course” for 10 days and they saw 20 odd performances. All food and accommodation was included from The Mpumalanga Government grant. The then Festival CEO, Ismail Mohamed, who is also a Sancta patron, facilitated the project. Now he is CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation and we hope to build up a new relationship with him.
Herbert Mokoena of Sisonke Art Productions, Emalehlene/ Witbank attended the course, via Assitej SA, which is holding an international 3-week festival and workshops in Cape Town in May under the guidance of the National and International Chair, Yvette Hardie (ex-Head of Drama at The National School of the Arts for many years). Mokoena has been chosen this year to do a one-year “Drama for Life” course at Wits University.
Dorothy Anne Gould, Michael Maxwell (our main Patrons) and Swannie Swanevelder travelled twice over a couple of weekends to mentor the chosen plays. They also read the original 20 plays sent in in December, and decided which they thought had a chance of getting to stage. Dorothy also mentored the Hillbrow play in Johannesburg.
We are also members of The International Amateur Theatre Association (IATA) and last year’s winners are supposed to partake in their 4-yearly Festival du Mondial in Monaco, in which we have participated in in 2001, 5, 9. In 2013 as the group couldn’t raise the airfares and last year’s winners are also not likely to go. With the Rand / Euro exchange rate where it is they need R120 000 for airfares, visas and passports. This is unfortunate as the festival highlights South Africa’s talents and brings our country to the fore internationally as 24 countries participate.
If there are any people/ companies willing to help, please contact Noel McDonald urgently. Thanks to TJ de Klerk for his never-ending help and kindness over the 20 years, since he started Artslink.co.za and when we became members. For any more information on Sancta, its festivals and other activities, please contact Noel McDonald on 083 309 4315.