A New Theatre Company – Just on Your Horizon …
I had the pleasure of parachuting in to your lovely False Bay last autumn and then had the privilege of interviewing Earl Mentor, sports and recreation manager at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation at Masiphumele along with his two internees: Khululwa Nkatshu and Sibabale Silo.
They wanted to start a new theatre company. They have.
Earl bounces towards me and greets me with a hug and Khuls and Sib – I will come to know them by these names – are ready with notebooks and pens.
My role, it appears, is to ask some questions which will fuel and focus their thinking. Why do they want to start a theatre company? What will the company have to offer, where will the members come from and where will they perform? When will this all start happening?
They didn’t need much fuelling.
Why. Their goal is the same as the HIV Foundation’s: to engage youth in a positive way. To that end drama will be used to bring about a positive change in the scenic Far South community.
‘Youth’ is the all important word: Ulutsha. The team of three want to make it clear to prospective company members that this will be theatre by them, for them and about them. (I hope they let this old swallow have a ‘walk on’ part in the future. They are certainly open to those who have experience and can help their project but more on this later; let’s get you in on the facts, dear Reader.)
Okay, so that’s the why. Good worthy stuff. But what are they going to be offering in terms of new writing for their youths, the community and tourists who stop by to see the penguins?
Khuls, the company’s director and scriptwriter, is animated as she talks about ‘issue based’ theatre. That’s good. But drama’s about a bit of brainstorming and mostly about ‘getting up and doing’. Sib, the dance director is pleased when I mention that I have seen his brother’s production of My Africa last year in this very hall I’m now interviewing the dramatic trio. These young people can dance; they can sing; they have huge energy and passion and it seems they are open to learning more about communicating with words. I am in awe as they speak one conversation in two languages: Xhosa and English. They certainly have something to say and the HIV Foundation is strong on ‘what you get out is what you put in’.
As I write some weeks later after this interview, auditions have already been held. Eight performers have been chosen for their talent but also for their commitment. One is no good without the other. ‘Commitment’ is a word the Foundation is keen to get young people in your community to understand. ‘Commitment’ requires staying power, seeing the project through to the end, being there and taking part.
Where? ‘Outreach’ is good; into the local schools, colleges, townships and community centres. That’s the beginning and there’s the far reaching goal of the big local theatres: Artscape, Baxter, Fugard. They won’t be refusing but here’s their great vision of where! An outdoor amphitheatre: a space available at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at Masiphumelele to integrate with the outdoor sports facility currently being initiated.
However, that’s the great oak. The small acorns from which bigger things grow will be finding an outdoor space to perform in Fish Hoek, maybe on Saturdays and public holidays and getting into some Street Theatre.
When? The first performance on Heritage Day – Tuesday 24th September at the centre.
After this interview last autumn I sat with Khuls on the steps outside the HIV centre and we read Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken together. (I happened to have a copy in my bag.) Frost talks about how ‘way leads on to way’ and I asked Khuls what she wanted from life. She said, “I’d like, one day, to start my own theatre company somewhere.”
I told her she’s doing it here and now. Help their ‘way lead on to way’ and help them build by coming and supporting their performances.
I asked Earl for a quote. He said, “No youth, no future.”
I’ll be back in your spring for the blossom.
DESMOND TUTU HIV FOUNDATION YOUTH CENTRE
Guinea Fowl Rd, Sunnydale,
Cape Town, 7975, South Africa
Tel: +27 21 785 6764
Cell: +27 72 857 3392