Jam-packed Eighth Annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival Now On Stage

Jam-packed Eighth Annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival Now On Stage
Lwanda Sindaphi and Qondiswa James in
Photo credit: Sithembele Junior

The Baxter's annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival is currently on the local theatre centre's stages, with productions playing through 17 March 2018. Some fresh and exciting innovations have been added to the programme, which features groundbreaking works by young theatre-makers from all over the Western Cape. The Baxter Theatre Centre will be buzzing with more than 40 theatre productions and events, featuring close to 150 artists and a line-up which is jam-packed with dynamic and diverse options, catering to all tastes during the week-long eighth annual festival.

The award-winning actor and director Mdu Kweyama has been appointed as curator of this year's festival and he joins the team which is spearheaded by artistic director Bongile Mantsai along with co-ordinator Zoleka Helesi, administrator Lauren Hannie and sales and marketing officer Monde Myataza. Kweyama, who holds a Master's degree from the University of Cape Town in directing, was the winner of the 2016 Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for New Director and is a former Baxter Artist-in-Residence. Some of his work at the Baxter in recent years include Reza de Wet's MISSING and Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon's WOZA ALBERT! Speaking of this year's festival, Kweyama says:

Our gratitude always to our partners, benefactors and supporters, who continue to believe and invest in the work that Zabalaza does. We are super excited about the programme and I would like to welcome all the performers and theatre-makers to the 2018 festival. We are especially proud of the new additions to the line-up and, in particular, the opportunities that we are able to present to the artists.

With the ongoing support and commitment from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, as well as Distell and HCI Foundation and, more recently, the City of Cape Town and Pick n Pay, the Zabalaza Theatre Festival is poised to retain its reputation as the premier event of its kind in South Africa. Now in its eighth year, the festival kicked off with a newly imagined Family Carnival Weekend, featuring a jumping castle and face painting for the young ones, food, clothing and accessories stalls and a host of other fun activities.

One of this year's highlights is the introduction of the Baxter's brand new Platform for Special Talent, made possible through funding from the City of Cape Town. This vital initiative emerged from a need to "bridge the gap" between opportunities for young, new theatre-makers and for well-known established ones. The aim is to develop and sustain theatre in South Africa by identifying talented theatre practitioners and providing them with a platform to improve and expose their artistic portfolio to a greater audience. These artists are creating excellent work and this initiative will provide them with opportunities to enhance their skills through mentorship and immersion in a professional theatrical space, designed to enrich their experience and skills as they build viable careers in the performing and creative arts environments. Five artists and their productions were identified: Chuma Sopotela's REST IN LOVE, Thando Mzembe's ZEBRA CONSPIRACY, Bulelani Mabutyana's FINAL CHAPTER, Lwanda Sindaphi's KUDU and Nwabisa Plaatjie's 23 YEARS, A MONTH AND SEVEN DAYS. The latter two productions both have full runs at the Baxter during March.

The main Zabalaza Theatre Festival will see all the venues and spaces at the Baxter once again pulsate with vibrant works and fresh new talent and activities for the entire family. Some 28 productions on the line-up, with daily shows at 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 19:00 from 12 - 16 March. These productions were chosen from the four mini-festivals which took place over two weekends during February in Khayelitsha, Delft, Athlone and Langa. The full programme is available from the Baxter's website.

The festival will culminate with an award ceremony on 17 March, where awards will be handed out to artists and productions in various categories and the Best of the Zabalaza Festival winner will be announced.

Baxter CEO and artistic director Lara Foot has once again introduced the Zabalaza Challenge, where she has bought 40 tickets at only R30 each to the performances at this year's festival. She challenges individuals, businesses and the public to join her:

I would like to invite you to invest in the future of our theatre-makers, by joining me in this challenge. These tickets will be given to learners who cannot afford to buy any. Furthermore, the takings at the door go straight back to the young artists who are presenting their work at the festival. This money, therefore, goes back into the community so that more plays can be produced by these talented artists.

To join the challenge go to the Zabalaza Challenge portal on the Baxter's website. Continuing its mission of creating further and on-going developmental prospects for young artists, another important addition to the Zabalaza Festival this year is a three-year bursary from City Varsity to any of the participants on the main programme and who apply to Zabalaza. The successful recipient will visit the Cape Town campus during 2018 and meet with curriculum advisors to decide on a course of their choice. A one-year internship at The Fugard Theatre has also been made available for a lucky incumbent selected by the Zabalaza team to hone their craft and gain further insight into the operations of the theatre.

Tickets for the Zabalaza Theatre Festival productions cost just R30 for any production barring the RAW showcases - which feature a line-up of singers, bands, dancers, rappers, poets and beatboxers - on 11 and 16 March, which cost R50. Bookings are online through Webtickets, by phone on 086 111 0005, or in person at selected Pick n Pay outlets. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Monde Myataza on 021 680 3980, Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993.

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