St. Ann's Warehouse Presents THE FALL
St. Ann's Warehouse presents Baxter Theatre Centre's The Fall, a vital new production devised collaboratively by a group of University of Cape Town graduates, re-enacting their revolt against a fraught symbol looming over their campus: a statue of 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Channeling the infectious energy of South Africanmusic, dance, and many of the country's 11 languages to echo the life of the #RhodesMustFall movement, The Fall furthers a rich and urgent lineage of protest theatre in South Africa. The play illuminates the intricacies and sacrifices of building resistance, as former student protesters recount both the personal and observed experiences of the characters they collectively developed. The Fall won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First and The Stage cast awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and comes to America on the heels of an analogous movement here to remove Confederate monuments. The Fall marks Baxter Theatre Centre's return to St. Ann's following its explosive 2012 production of Yael Farber's Mies Julie, which transformed Strindberg's 1888 social tragedy into a potent metaphor for the power dynamics of post-Apartheid South Africa.
The actor-activists who assembled to create The Fall, commissioned by the Baxter Theatre Centre, were all involved, in various capacities, in the #RhodesMustFall protest, which began March 9, 2015. Their activism was, in the immediate sense, directed against the statue commemorating Rhodes-founder of the British South Africa Company who, motivated by and capitalizing on his derision of indigenous peoples and white supremacist values, sought to expand the British Empire. The (successful) call to remove the statue was a vehicle through which to combat all oppressive structures and symbols embedded in the South African educational status quo-a call to decolonize education itself. The protests also called for free tuition and an end to the crushing student debts imposed by the educational system.
Though they may bear their own histories and symbols, the power dynamics that marginalize select groups across the globe still manage to uncannily mimic one another; The Fall couldn't come to the United States at a more pressing time. While speaking to the cultural specifics of institutional racism and inequalities in the Apartheid-scarred country and its liberalized institutions, The Fall parallels debates erupting in the U.S. over the impact of inflammatory iconography-particularly Confederate monuments and ritual demonstrations. These debates focus not only on the symbolic aspects of the relics cultures decide to cling to, but how the symbols and the objects can infest the world around them. In Charlottesville in the early 20th century, the statues of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee became tools of displacement of black communities; in 2017, they drew herds of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis from across the country to their defense. In South Africa, black people (approximately 80% of the country's population) whose parents were marginalized by British and Dutch colonialism, and segregated for the further empowerment of white rule, can now get the same education as white students. Yet that education can be immobilizing in its cost, and, the #RhodesMustFall Movement emphasizes that it is limited by colonial thought, and condoned by the presence of the monuments that perpetuate it. The statue of Rhodes is a lightning rod for the issues its presence memorializes.
When the ensemble came together, it was key to create the production by implementing a similar structure to that of the movement it reflected. "The original modus operandi of the movement was horizontal leadership as opposed to vertical leadership," explains Ameera Conrad, who serves as both a curator (along with Thando Mangcu) and cast member of The Fall. "We wanted to pay homage to that by using the same structure in our theatre-making." The compelling particulars of interaction in the act of political organizing are integral to the text of the play itself.
In its development, Conrad and Mangcu would record and transcribe improvisational sessions with all of the cast-members and collaboratively select standout moments from hours of material. The cast/writers, including Conrad, Oarabile Ditsele, Zandile Madliwa, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana, and Cleo Raatus, as well as writer Kgomotso Khunoane, penned poetry and diary entries, and collaboratively wrote songs, choreographed dances, and created their characters. Explains Mamabolo, "We were at the Baxter Theatre Centre from 9-5 every day for a month. We created characters that clash but at the same time understand that they are brought together by lived experience and a certain ideology and a certain desire for change. Some things some people didn't understand-like we had to debate feminism with some of the guys, and assert, 'this is why this is crucial to the play.' We kept each other in check: every time you have a point to make you have to defend why that point is necessary."
The play speaks to the multitude of the movement's aims for change through the lenses of black radical feminist characters, queer characters, and even those with more traditional patriarchal values. "We have as many people as we could think to represent accurately," adds Conrad. "The Fall doesn't attempt to tell people what to think-we're just telling what we think, and what different people we were with thought, asking for a moment of listening and understanding-and it has been very cathartic to audiences. That's what the purpose of this play is-to get people talking about these issues, which are global, and not specific to the US or South Africa or the UK."
The cast worked alongside Director Clare Stopford, who had been their drama senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town. Stopford, the celebrated former artistic director of Johannesburg's Market Theatre (known as South Africa's "Theatre of Struggle" and for challenging the Apartheid Regime), joined the ensemble to facilitate the work and contribute her experience with protest theatre. Stopford, who is white, says of her directorship of the production, "It was very important for this moment in time, and maybe more times as well, that the power relations are renegotiated. I would not have made any decision without the group's agreement. The reason why we wanted to make this piece is the need to be heard and understood. It's the thing that theatre can do in a way a lot of things can't. It's people taking and asserting their voice into a space that up until this point, has not thoroughly listened."
Time Out London raved, during the show's run at London's Royal Court Theatre, "There's real power here...[and] what adrenalizes this show are the differences it splits open between the students depending on their background. It's not a tidy portrait of people unified by a common cause. It's a microcosm of struggle." In a 5-star review, The Times writes, "It is one thing to have heard about the Rhodes Must Fall campaign on the news, but the truths spoken and shouted here send chills down the spine."
Song, dance, text, and video for the performance were all created by the ensemble, with set design by Patrick Curtis, costume design by Marisa Steenkamp, and lighting design by Luyanda Somkhence. The Fall is executive produced by Lara Foot.
Performance Schedule and Ticketing
Performances of The Fall will take place March 8-17, 20-24 at 8pm; March 18 at 7pm; March 25 at 5pm; and March 17, 18, and 24 at 2pm. A student matinee and talkback will be held Wed. March 21 at 2pm.
Critics are welcome March 10 at 8pm for an official opening on March 12 at 8pm.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is Lead International Sponsor of the St. Ann's Warehouse 2017-18 season.
About Baxter Theatre Centre
At the forefront of the performing arts, both as a popular venue and as a leading award-winning producer, the Baxter Theatre Centre presents ground-breaking, cutting edge works and masterpieces from local and international repertoires. Since its inception the theatre has stayed true to its promise of always being open to everyone who visits it and to create work of the highest artistic quality. The objective is to reflect the cultures of all the people of South Africa on its stages and in its foyers and galleries and, thereby, nurturing an interactive and meaningful relationship with its audiences and patrons, while generating a spirit of goodwill and creativity.
Designed by the award-winning architect Jack Barnett, the theatre came into being as the result of a bequest from the late Dr William Duncan Baxter who, in his will, bequeathed a sum of money to the University of Cape Town (UCT) for the purpose of establishing a theatre which would, in his words, "develop and cultivate the arts in Cape Town and the adjacent districts for all artists". This bequest was split between building the premises and establishing a permanent endowment fund for the Baxter's activities.
Barnett wanted to design a theatre that embodied the South African spirit and culture, at a time when South Africa was much divided. A theatre like the Baxter had to embrace all the people of Cape Town, which was difficult due to the laws that were enforced in the country at the time. The Entertainment Act of 1931 introduced legal censorship and the Publication and Entertainment Act of 1963 segregated black and white audiences, unless under special licences. To build the Baxter in the city centre meant that people of colour couldn't access it and that is why the University of Cape Town became a strategic location for a theatre for all.
Over the years the Baxter has staged iconic productions which have enjoyed international recognition and success. Some of these include the 1985 production Miss Julie, starring John Kani and Sandra Prinsloo and which showed the first on-stage kiss between a black male and white female, and which sparked an outcry by the Nationalist apartheid government at the time. Other stagings include The Island, Size Banzi is Dead, Nothing But the Truth and many of Athol Fugard's plays. In recent years Baxter CEO and artistic director Lara Foot's productions Tshepang, The Inconvenience of Wings, Karoo Moose and Solomon and Marion have also travelled abroad, to critical acclaim.
On 1 August 2017, the Baxter Theatre Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark this milestone, the dynamic theatre embarked on an exciting and innovative initiative called the 40/80 Campaign. A simple and accessible fundraising drive was launched by inviting the public and the business sector to join the theatre to turn a 40-year legacy into an 80-year commitment, thereby, ensuring that this illustrious legacy will continue for future audiences and artists.
The Baxter does not receive any funding from the national government or from the National Lotteries Commission. However, the University of Cape Town covers approximately 40% of the Baxter's operational costs and the balance of 60% has to be raised by the theatre.
Despite these limitations the Baxter is widely regarded as one of the premier theatres in the country - winning awards and receiving accolades and recognition for its inherent and proudly South African productions which speak to the heart of the country's social landscape with universal themes.
About St. Ann's Warehouse
St. Ann's Warehouse plays a vital role on the global cultural landscape as an American artistic home for international companies of distinction, American avant-garde masters and talented emerging artists ready to work on a grand scale. St. Ann's signature flexible, open space allows artists to stretch, both literally and imaginatively, enabling them to approach work with unfettered creativity, knowing that the theater can be adapted in multiple configurations to suit their needs.
In the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park, St. Ann's Warehouse has designed a spectacular waterfront theater that opened in October 2015. The new Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Theater offers St. Ann's signature versatility and grandeur on an amplified scale while respecting the walls of an original 1860's Tobacco Warehouse. The building complex includes a second space, a Studio, for St. Ann's Puppet Lab, smaller-scale events and community uses, as well as The Max Family Garden, designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and open to Brooklyn Bridge Park visitors during Park hours.
Susan Feldman founded Arts at St. Ann's (now St. Ann's Warehouse) in 1980 as part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, to help save the National Historic Landmark Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights. For twenty-one years, St. Ann's presented a decidedly eclectic array of concert and theater performances in the church sanctuary.
From Fall 2001 through the 2014-15 season, the organization activated found spaces in DUMBO with the world's most imaginative theater- and music-makers, helping to make the burgeoning neighborhood a destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike. After twelve years (2001-2012) in a warehouse that was located at 38 Water Street, St. Ann's transformed another raw space at 29 Jay Street into an interim home (2012-2015), while the organization adapted the then-roofless Tobacco Warehouse at 45 Water Street in Brooklyn Bridge Park into the new St. Ann's Warehouse.
Almost four decades of consistently acclaimed landmark productions that found their American home at St. Ann's include Lou Reed's and John Cale's Songs for 'Drella; Marianne Faithfull's Seven Deadly Sins; Artistic Director Susan Feldman's Band in Berlin; Charlie Kaufman and the Coen Brothers' Theater of the New Ear; The Royal Court and TR Warszawa productions of Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis; The Globe Theatre of London's Measure for Measure with Mark Rylance; Druid Company's The Walworth Farce, The New Electric Ballroom and Penelope by Enda Walsh and Walsh's Misterman, featuring Cillian Murphy, and Arlington; Lou Reed's Berlin; the National Theater of Scotland's Black Watch and Let the Right One In; Kneehigh Theatre's Brief Encounter, 946 and Tristan & Yseult; Baxter Theatre Centre's Mies Julie; Dmitry Krymov Lab's Opus No. 7; The Donmar Warehouse all-female Shakespeare Trilogy: Julius Caesar, Henry IV, The Tempest; Kate Tempest's Brand New Ancients; Tricycle Theatre's Red Velvet, the Young Vic production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson; Mark Rylance's Nice Fish, the National Theatre's People, Places & Things, and the World Premiere of the complete Taylor Mac's A 24 Decade History of Popular Music, including the one-time only 24-hour marathon in 2016. St. Ann's has championed such artists as The Wooster Group, Mabou Mines, Jeff Buckley, Cynthia Hopkins, Daniel Kitson, Emma Rice and Kneehigh, and presented an historic David Bowie concert in 2002.
The new St. Ann's Warehouse retains the best of its past homes: the sense of sacred space of its original home in St. Ann's Church and the vastness and endless capacity for reconfiguration artists have harnessed in St. Ann's temporary warehouses in DUMBO.