Spotlight: Young directors bring the Fiësta flair!

February 20, 2017

Since 2011, the Fiësta Awards have honoured creatives and role-players that bring theatre to life at the biggest arts festivals in the country. According to the Fiëstas panel convenor, Naudé van der Merwe, the panel saw more than a 100 debut Afrikaans productions in 2016, each festival with a unique character and each performance a commentary in its own way of the times we live in.


As is customary, the best and brightest of the festival year will be celebrated at a gala event. This year it will be hosted at the Artscape Theatre on 23 February 2017, with a live broadcast on kykNET (DStv channel 144), under the direction of a very dynamic team of young directors, Nico Scheepers, Amy Jephta, Wolf Britz and Steven van Wyk, as part of the mentorship program. They will each be responsible for an entertainment segment on the evening, which include the opening and finale!


In between the buzz, excitement and insanely busy schedules, as they prepare for Thursday evening, I got some blue carpet inspired details from Nico Scheepers and Steven van Wyk. As is to be expected, both of them are extremely happy about the opportunity to be one of the co-directors for such a spectacular event!


“We all aspire to be a part of a night like this”, says Nico, “and to have a hand in its creation is surreal.” Nico’s excitement is undeniable, he says he didn’t even think twice when the email came in offering him this opportunity, responding to it immediately, explaining, “I would MAKE my schedule work around it. I knew I would be stupid to pass up on the opportunity to be one of four directors”. Steven agrees, “it felt very serendipitous being asked to do this, because towards the end of last year I was contemplating the ‘next step’ in my career and I had decided that I wanted to go deeper into directing and producing commercial work… so it’s provided me with huge amounts of professional and creative growth".


Working as a team of four directors must mean various ideas and creative opinions are constantly on the table as options. Nico however doesn’t see that as a negative, but rather as a collective advantage, “Me, Steven, Amy and Wolf all have wildly different ideas and styles that complement each other, especially on a collaborative level”. Steven admits the group directing dynamic is very different to what he is used to in working with Underground Dance Theatre and his own creative initiatives, where he either does everything himself or in tandem with two co-directors, “On kykNET Fiëstas however, you have whole departments who carry out the nitty-gritty work of building sets and props and costumes”, which Steven says made him realise the importance of communication when directing at this scale. But he also acknowledges that there is a bit of a thrill when the brief you give is understood in a completely different way and the result is “an even more inspiring vision than you’d had in the first place!”


So it appears team work in fact amplifies the creative expression in a production of this nature, as the four young directors bring their vision to life under the guidance of executive director, Ian von Memerty, alongside musical director, Janine Neethling.


Both Nico and Steven are aware of the fact that there is a balance to be struck, between the theatre community present on the night and the audience watching at home, when directing for a show of this magnitude. “While the kykNET Fiësta Awards is at its core a celebration of the Afrikaans theatre community… and the incredible work they do”, along with providing “viewers at home with an understanding of the calibre of work that exists at our festivals”, Steven admits, “an awards show would be nothing without spectacle, which is why we each of us directors have been tasked with creating a unique once-off production number for the show!” Similar to Steven, this is also Nico’s first time directing for television, so to strike this delicate balance he is making a mind shift as far as the creative parameters (the technical requirements, along with the removed ‘at home’ audiences) in which he has to make magic happen, “This was a learning curve for me, to understand that whatever you create needs to be spectacular, but cannot detract narratively from the festival pieces also presented as part of the evening".


Not an easy feat at all, but if the level of commitment and visionary leaps of Nico and Steven are anything to go by, then the four directors definitely seem up to the task!


So an extravaganza awaits then? Steven explains that we can expect world class performers, an orchestra, 40-piece choir, dancers, and an amazing set, all “the elements that bring the Tony Award-inspired ‘wow’ factor”. Amplified by the intimacy of extracts from the nominated productions as “the heart and soul of the Fiëstas”, the wow elements will definitely bring the party to both those attending and those watching at home.


This will all tie up with the 2017 theme, Tides, which is ingeniously open to interpretation and gives the directors much scope to creatively go to town. It is “all that it entails and whatever you want to infer”, Nico subtly hints, while keeping that element of theatrical mystery. Steven is a bit more revealing (while still not giving to much away) with his interpretation, “I worked from the concept that tides bring us flotsam and jetsam, things wash up on the shore, much like how life sometimes spontaneously hands us surprises”.


With a versatile theme like Tides, showstoppers are a given, right? Although Nico reveals that the dancers are his favourite in the production as a whole, he teasingly lets the wonder linger with a “You will have to wait and see”, while Steven ups the teasing anticipation with just enough lure, “Three words: Arno, Corlea, Thembeka”.


I think we will indeed be very entertainingly surprise by the Tides inspired concepts these two are developing.


After this behind the scenes chat with Nico and Steven, I am truly excited to see what awaits us on Thursday evening. Actually saying I am excited is an understatement. I may just walk around randomly doing jazz-hands as a means of coping with the anticipation of what promises to be an absolutely amazing night celebrating Afrikaans theatre and all that it is at the 2017 kykNET Fiësta Awards.


Don’t forget to tune into kykNET on Thursday evening, 23 February 2017, to experience this highlight on the theatre calendar live! Want to start making your predictions so long? Here are the nominees in the various categories:



Chris van Niekerk – Pa (KKNK)
John Kani – So Ry Miss Daisy (Aardklop)
Stefan Erasmus – As (Woordfees)
Tobie Cronjé – Kul (KKNK)



Antoinette Kellerman – Die Huis van Bernarda Alba (KKNK)
Ilse Klink – Kristalvlakte (SOF)
Karli Heine – Heidi (KKNK)
Sandra Prinsloo – So Ry Miss Daisy (Aardklop)



Albert Pretorius – Hond se Gedagte (Woordfees)
Dawid Minnaar – Die Huis van Bernarda Alba (KKNK)
Dean-John Smith – Kristalvlakte (SOF)
Tobie Cronjé – Heidi (KKNK)



Cintaine Schutte – Die Huis van Bernarda Alba (KKNK)
Lynelle Kenned – Heidi (KKNK)
Nicola Hanekom – Kul (KKNK)
Nicole Holm – In Ongenade (Woordfees)



Francois Toerien – Heidi (KKNK)
Jaco Bouwer – In Ongenade (Woordfees)
Marthinus Basson – Die Gangsters (Woordfees)
Nico Scheepers – Rooivalk (Woordfees)
Wessel Pretorius – Die Ontelbare 48 (Innibos)



Birrie le Roux (kostuums) – Die Huis van Bernarda Alba (KKNK)
Francois Toerien en Kosie Smith (beligting, stel, kostuums) – Heidi (KKNK)
Jaco Bouwer (stelontwerp) – In Ongenade (Woordfees)
Rocco Pool (stelontwerp) – Die Huis van Bernarda Alba (KKNK)



Anthea Thompson – My Briljante Egskeiding (Woordfees)
Frank Opperman – Hond (Innibos)
Richard September – Rooivalk (Woordfees)
Wessel Pretorius – Die Ontelbare 48 (Innibos)



Dana Snyman en Frank Opperman – Hond (Innibos)
Francois Toerien, Grethe van der Merwe en Wolf Britz – Hensop! (Woordfees)
Nico Scheepers – Rooivalk (Woordfees)
Wessel Pretorius – Die Ontelbare 48 (Innibos)



David Viviers – Klara Maas se Hart is Gebreek (KKNK)
Faith Kinnair – Valencia (KKNK)
Tarryn Wyngaard – Kristalvlakte (SOF)
Vashti Prins – Die Gangsters (Woordfees)



Alex Hamilton – kurator van visuele kunsprogram (Woordfees)
Amanda Botha – Herinnering aan Distrik 6: ’n Foto-uitstalling (SOF)
Hannalie Taute – Stink Afrikaners (Woordfees)
Lien Botha – Wonderboom (Woordfees)



Erik Dippenaar, Elsabé Richter en Bridget Rennie-Salonen – Camerata Tinta Barocca: Handel in die Voorkamer (KKNK)
Grethe Nöthling, Mathildie Wium en Stephanus Muller – Nagmusiek (KKNK)
Stefan Temmingh en Erik Dippenaar – Corelli & Co. (Woordfees)
Albie van Schalkwyk, José Dias en Francois du Toit – Three Pianos (Vrystaat)



Die Liedjieboer (Woordfees)
Charl du Plessis Boogie Woogie Big Band (KKNK)
Boontoe: Engelstemme vir Paasfees (KKNK)
Kô Laat Ons Sing – Adam Small (Woordfees)



Hunkering na die Ses (SOF)
Mathys Roets (Aardklop)
Naledi Berge Nog So Blou (KKNK)
Rugsak Vol Robyne: Amanda Strydom (KKNK)



Die Afrikaansvatter (KKNK)
Hensop! (Woordfees)
Heidi (KKNK)
Huistoe (SOF)



As (Woordfees)
Kul (KKNK)
Die Ontelbare 48 (Innibos)
Rooivalk (Woordfees)

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