People who want an easy life don’t tend to select any aspect of theatre as their primary career choice. The hours are long, the pay is low, and the self-doubt is real. It’s no secret that theatre-makers have to be resourceful and resilient if they are to succeed in their chosen field, but what if that isn’t enough? What are producers, directors, and writers to do when it seems to be getting harder and harder to convince audiences to buy tickets and venues to take risks when it comes to programming?
On a warm Monday evening in January, nearly 50 independent theatre-makers met at Theatre Arts in Observatory to discuss various issues facing the industry, such as a dearth of resources and support, the particular obstacles hindering audience development, and the fact that many in the industry feel isolated from the larger theatre community. The forum was organised and chaired by writer and director Dara Beth.
While many creative solutions were suggested —engaging audiences by utilising social media in more than just a perfunctory way, approaching schools with material that might be appropriate for their learners, and providing a product that isn’t trying to compete with Netflix but delivers its own particular kind of magic instead— it felt like the discussion at times simply skirted around the rather large elephant in the room, namely money (or a chronic lack thereof).
The general consensus during this part of the conversation seemed to be that young and emerging artists need more guidance during their formal training to prepare them for the realities of raising money for projects, like dedicated instruction in how to apply for funding and how to become producers.
As had been anticipated, the three-hour timeslot did not provide sufficient time for a discussion of the entire agenda, and so it was proposed that this meeting would turn into a series of monthly meetings during which participants could raise questions and seek solutions to the variety of challenges facing independent theatre-makers in South Africa.
The next Independent Theatre Forum will be taking place at 16 Belvedere Road, Rondebosch on the 17th of February. Interested parties may RSVP via the Facebook event or contact Dara Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.