The annual creative pilgrimage to the National Arts Festival is fast approaching, where thousands of artists descend upon South Africa’s largest arts festival in the small settler town of Grahamstown. A staple of the festival is the Student Theatre Programme, in which student artists and representatives from theatre schools and learning institutes across the country come together to showcase new work. The student theatre at the festival has gone on to propel many young artists into the professional industry. Last year the production from UCT, “Don’t Shoot the Harbinger”, which was directed by then UCT final year student Kei-Ella Loewe, was awarded with ‘Best Script’ in the National Arts Festival Student Theatre Programme, which was written by then UCT final year students Katya Mendelson, Ameera Conrad, and Thando Mangcu. This year the theatre-making students will be showcasing their new collaborative and devised work “Figs” at the festival, but not without challenge.
UCT Drama Department prides itself on producing numerous productions throughout the year. From intimate offerings and excerpts to fully-fledged and lengthy shows of varying styles, these dynamic experiences and processes provide the opportunity to apply what has been learnt in the lecture hall to the real theatre environment. Thus far in 2016 UCT Drama Department has produced the devised musical “Railroad Angels”, directed by international theatre practitioner Tober Riley, and Shakespeare’s “All’s well that ends well”, directed by head of department Geoffrey Hyland. Recently the theatre-makers showcased their works based on adaptations of a variety of short stories. Having just premiered is “Langalibalele – the scorching sun”, written by Neil McCarthy and directed by Clare Stopford, and “Portret”, by Philip Rademeyer and directed by Amy Jephta – both involving the third and fourth year acting and theatre-making students.
After the success of 2015’s Barney Simon Season, the UCT Drama Department will once again curate a season of plays from South Africa. The New Works Season sees senior students from the department take on two never-before-seen works by South African playwrights. The initiative responds to an ongoing need for new plays that reflect the current state of South Africa and use indigenous lenses to interpret and represent our world. New Works provides an opportunity to experience fresh new plays and for young actors to take on the challenge of interpreting new writing for contemporary audiences.