Student Theatre Award Winners Named at 2017 National Arts Festival

Student Theatre Award Winners Named at 2017 National Arts Festival
The company of CULT CLIT

The Student Festival at the 2017 National Arts Festival saw a major change effected this year, with the platform being integrated into the Fringe. With the aim of providing a realistic experience of performing at a Festival, the productions had to follow the rules of the Fringe and meet the demands of the tight technical rehearsal schedule, as well as make choices that sat well within the spatial limitations of their respective Fringe venues. With the Festival having come to a close, the award winners for this year's Student Festival were named by an advisory team consisting of Greg Homann (who headed up the panel), Thami akaMbongo, Lara Bye, Mwenya Kabwe, Liiane Loots, Nobesuthu Rayi and Tracey Saunders.

Only work created by students was eligible for awards. Homann comments:

The work presented on the Student Festival this year was generally of a high level with most of the students choosing to create new plays that explore issues close to their lived experience. We saw many excellent performances and some incredibly impressive ensemble work.

The Student Theatre Award for Best Production went to MOLORA from the Tshwane University of Technology's Drama & Film Department, which was directed by Kopano Maema. The panel was impressed by what they viewed as an excellent staging of Yaël Farber's text, with the ensemble cast and creative team integrating strong choreographic elements, superb ensemble vocal work and singing, with a clear commitment to telling the story.

The Student Theatre Award for Best Original Work was presented to CULT CLIT from Rhodes University Drama Department, which was directed by Mmatumisang Motsisi. The panel was impressed with the production's clear vision and unified team, with the choreography, design and tight performance ensemble elements working harmoniously to create an entirely cohesive and powerful original theatre production.

The student advisory team made special mention of POP ICHERI, written by Ncumisa Ndimeni and Nosipho Buthelezi for the Market Theatre's Lab, awarding the piece a Student Theatre Merit Award for Original Work. Homann said:

This work made use of strong ensemble work, clear storytelling, and a good sense of theatrical style to explore the issue of awarding 'virgin bursaries' to university students.

Special mention was also made of THE CITIZEN, which was created by students from various departments across the University of the Western Cape in collaboration with the Gender Equity Unit at the University. The work encapsulates a commitment to using theatre as a platform for students to explore their own personal experiences and narratives, and in so doing, to empower themselves and the audience who saw the work.

Manoko Tlhako from Rhodes University Drama Department was presented with an Award for Best Stage Manager. The Student Theatre Award for Best Marketing and Publicity for a Student Theatre Production was not awarded.

Now in its forty-third year, the National Arts Festival is the largest and longest-running celebration of the arts on the African content. It is held annually in the small university city of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, as well as a children's arts festival.

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