The Avalon Theatre at the District Six Homecoming Centre (the former Fugard Theatre) will play host to a mini-festival of three one-person plays and a short film based on a play, all written by award-winning playwright, Mike van Graan.
“August is my birthday month, and I’ve decided to use it both to celebrate with a mini-festival of creative work after more than two years of no theatre work, and to mark my shift from the cultural policy, networking and advocacy work that has consumed much of my adult life, towards more creative writing pursuits,” said Van Graan.
At the beginning of 2020, Van Graan had the opportunity for a residency at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) to work on his first novel. But then, COVID struck and the residency was cut short.
He was also commissioned by the Fugard Theatre to write a new play that was to be presented as part of the theatre’s tenth anniversary season in 2020. But the theatre was shut first temporarily, and then permanently.
“It’s a bitter-sweet moment to be back in the old Fugard, a space that danced itself into the hearts of many Capetonians,” commented Van Graan.
With the theatre sector decimated by the COVID lockdowns, Van Graan together with a few colleagues and friends initiated the Sustaining Theatre and Dance (STAND) Foundation to help creatives during the pandemic and beyond. He has served as the Coordinator of the Foundation since its inception and will hand over the reins to someone else during this month.
Through STAND, Van Graan helped to launch the Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA) so that the sector has a voice on policy and other issues that affect the sector. In the last year, he was invited to head up a four-person writing team to draft a new policy on theatre and dance initiated by the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC). He has also worked with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) to launch the Community Arts Centres Network of the Western Cape (CACNET) as a vehicle through which to ensure that some of the more marginalised communities enjoy their fundamental right ‘to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts’ as per Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“It’s now time to move on and to encourage and support a new generation to do this kind of work” said Van Graan who will take up a fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin from early September to the end of the year.
“The four shows in the Home, Hope and Humour Festival collectively speak to our home, South Africa, with its myriad challenges, leaving us to wonder where we may find hope for our future. Humour is one of our primary coping mechanisms” explained the writer who will conduct a conversation about hope with Mark Heywood, a well-known social activist and writer, at the official launch of the Festival on Monday 8 August.
The three plays - He Had it Coming (celebrating women), Country Duty (celebrating whistleblowers) and The New Abnormal (celebrating freedom of expression) are each performed by a single actor, the legacy of the COVID pandemic lockdowns that adversely impacted the theatre sector. This mini-festival is designed to give the actors a portable production that they could perform in a theatre, an informal space and even someone’s home and generate income, helping them to recover from their losses during more than two years of the pandemic.
He Had it Coming is performed by Kim Blanche Adonis, directed by Daniel Mpilo Richards. Fresh from the Redhill Festival in Joburg, Khutjo Green features in Country Duty directed by Fiona Ramsay, and Rob van Vuuren directs Marty Kintu in The New Abnormal.
The short film (24 minutes) of Some Mothers’ Sons came about when an enterprising actor – Luntu Masiza – and a small team converted the rights to produce the play during 2020 into a movie when COVID struck. It has been screened since at multiple festivals around the world and is one of three nominees in the Best Short Film Category of the forthcoming South African Film and Television Awards!
The three plays and the film screening will take place each day from Tuesday 9 August to Saturday 13 August, with two of the shows on Monday before the official opening at 20:00.
Tickets for the film screenings are R45 and R55, and for the theatre shows R95 and R125 and are available from Quicket under the banner Home, Hope and Humour Festival. The schedule is also available on Quicket.
The festival has been made possibly by a generous investor and by sponsorship from The Crazy Store.