Wits Theatre brings an exciting lineup to its 969 Festival #969fest2015

Wits Theatre brings an exciting lineup to its 969 Festival #969fest2015

Wits Theatre brings an exciting lineup to its 969 Festival

Straight off the stages from the National Arts Festival, Wits Theatre plays host to new and exciting plays as part of the 969 Festival from 15-26 July 2015.

Theatre, music and poetry lovers will be treated to at least 16 of the most interesting productions to hit local stages in the recent past. Sex, death, suffering, anti-Semitism, poverty, despair, society, history – no subject is taboo.

Now in its 12 instalment, this festival is for those who did not make the 969 kilometre trek to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and brings the pick of the festival to the Wits Theatre in Braamfontein.

Gita Pather, Director of Wits Theatre is upbeat about the 969 Festival and said “the festival provides a fascinating snapshot into our cultural landscape and specifically the exciting work being staged by theatre makers. I am really proud of this year’s programme; a combination of international and South African work because it showcases a diverse range of productions and styles of performance.

The lineup includes Singarevva and the Palace by well-known Indian theatre and TV artist Laxmi Chandrashekar, a solo theatre adaptation of a novel by Dr C. Kambara, and a powerful depiction of the suffering of women in feudal India.

Other international shows include the hilariously heartbreaking off-Broadway play Ndebele Funeral, which brings to stage the music, dirt, and dreams of modern Soweto. Alon Nashman, renowned Canadian actor plays two characters in Kafka and Son and Hirsch. Kafka and Son examines the complex relation between Kafka and his father while Hirsch depicts the colourful life and character of John Hirsch, an orphan of the Holocaust who emigrated to Canada and turned the tragedy of his childhood into live art.

Kafka’s Ape based on A Report To An Academy is an intriguing interrogation on identity and what it means to be human. Directed by Phala O Phala, it stars Tony Miyambo as Red Peter who also happens to play a grief-stricken son attempting to come to terms with his father’s death in Cenotaph of Dan wa Moriri. Father Father Father is a zany Black comedy about three sisters locked in a basement awaiting their father. The question though is the waiting one of anticipation or dread? Toni Morkel, Joni Barnard and Roberto Pombo play the sisters.

Pombo is Jemma Kahn’s irreverent side kick in We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants: 7 Deadly New Stories For Consenting Adults, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher with stories that seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral.

A completely different take on identity and what it means to be a man is made via the unique visions of three exceptional directors Quintin Wils, Sylvaine Strike, Megan Willson in Simply Sapiens, a play in 3 acts performed by Craig Morris and Greg Melvill-Smith. The innovative, cutting edge director Quintin Wils has two other shows at the festival: Smaarties with Jannes Erasmus as a man who finds himself in a psychiatric ward after the death of both of his parents and aLEXA, literally a “mobile thriller” with household TV personalities Carina Nel (Generations) and Vianney Farmer (Crave). Audience members get into a car with “Alexa” and into a totally immersive theatre experience.

Two girls going nowhere sitting on the side of a road is the setting for Actress and Girl, a whimsical and dark story about the kindness and cruelty of strangers.

Boegoespruit Ext 25 by 3rd and 4th year Wits School of Arts performance students focuses on people living in a coloured township somewhere, marginalised for different reasons and all hoping that winning a local talent show will rescue them from the poverty of their lives.

Inspired by Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Crossing directed by Mncedisi Shabangu explores the subject of death in the stories of five women. And in Dead Yellow Sands, the audience will meet ghosts from Graham Weir’s past, coming face to face with a South Africa that may be fading, but that lingers on in corners and alleys and institutions we all know well.

To round off a versatile, unconventional programme, Colombian Carlos Fernando Balanta’s showcases the complex cultural rhythms of his native country through percussion instruments, voice and drums. The performance called Baterimba has excited audiences all over the world. For poetry lovers, a diverse selection of poetry tastes ranging from slam poetry to prose, free verse will be on offer under the Poetry Overload banner.

Various lunch-time performances have been scheduled from 20 to 24 July at 13:15 to give students of drama, theatre and performance an opportunity to watch some of the best shows from the National Arts Festival. The shows are Hirsch (at the Amphitheatre on 20 July), Singarevva and the Palace (at the Downstairs Theatre on 20 July), Kafka and Son (at the Downstairs Theatre on 21 July), We Didn’t Come To Hell for the Croissants: 7 Deadly Sins, 7 writers and 7 new stories (at the Downstairs Theatre on 22 July) and Ndebele Funeral (at the Downstairs Theatre on 23 July). All tickets are R30 and R25 for bookings of 10 and more.

Performances to look forward to:

Ndebele Funeral
Director: Awoye Timpo
Writer: Zoey Martinson
Costume: Lara de Bruijn,
Sound Designer: John Emmett O’Brien
Lighting Designer: Justin W. King and Wilhelm Disbergen
Stage Manager: Josephine Rose Ronga
Performers: Yusef Miller, Zoey Martinson and Jonathan David Martin
Choreography: Sduduzo Ka-Mbili and Cuereston Burge
Musical Direction: Tuelo Minah
Dramaturge: Ndumiso Khovana
Production Manager: Kathryn Lagana
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
When: Wednesday 22 July at 19:30, Thursday 23 July at 13:15, Friday 24 July at 19:30 and Saturday 25 July at 19:00

Inspired from a 10-minute play by Ivan Suazo, this show comes off a successful run Off-Broadway in New York City. Hilariously heartbreaking, Ndebele Funeral pulls audiences into the music, dirt, and dreams of modern Soweto by examining the aspirations and loss of three characters whose lives intersect in a shack in the township’s informal settlements. Smoke & Mirrors Collaboratives’s powerfully physical production delves bravely into modern poverty, health care and violence featuring original music and gumboot dancing from the mines of Jo’burg.

Singarevva And The Palace
Director: Soumya Varma
Writer: Laxmi Chandrashekar
Costume and Set Designer: Malthesh Badigere
Lighting Designer: Mudanna Rattehalli
Sets and Props: Malthesh Badigera, M.C.Chetan, Jaisimha
Performers: Laxmi Chandrashekar
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: None
When: Wednesday 15 July at 19:00, Friday 17 July at 20:45 and Monday 20 July at 13:15.

Singarevva and the Palace, a solo theatre adaptation of a novel by Dr Chandrashekara Kambara, is a powerful depiction of the suffering of women in feudal India. Created by the award-winning duo of Laxmi Chandrashekar (actor) and Soumya Varma (director), the play has seen close to 100 shows and won accolades in national and international festivals. The story is narrated by Sheeningi, Singarevva’s maid and childhood friend. Singarevva/Singari, the beautiful, kind- hearted daughter of the greedy village chief, Gowda, is married off, first to a dead man and later to a degenerate, impotent Desai, who owns an ancestral palace and lives in the make-believe world of theatre. The marriage is never consummated and Singarevva turns to a “Holy man” to fulfil her longing for motherhood. When the lecherous mendicant dies of fright in the palace, she seeks the help of Marya, an untouchable labourer, to get rid of the corpse. Marya, who has nursed an obsessive passion for her, demands sexual gratification and rapes her when denied. Given the complete lack of male affection in her life and the complete indifference of her husband, it is no surprise that she picks Marya as her lover. But her upbringing makes it impossible for her to live with the guilt.

Hirsch
Director: Paul Thompson
Writer: Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson
Costume and Set Designer: Gillian Gallow
Lighting Designer: Itai Erdal
Performers: Alon Nashman
Other Credits: Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 85 minutes
Age Restriction: 13+
When: Saturday, 18 July at 14:00 and Monday, 20 July at 13:15

Hirsch chronicles the life and times of John Hirsch, a Hungarian/Jewish orphan of the Holocaust who immigrated to Canada, where he turned the tragedy of his childhood into live art. With Tom Hendry, he founded the Manitoba Theatre Centre, North America’s first regional theatre. He brought his fiery passion to the Stratford Festival, National Theatre School of Canada, CBC Television, and every corner of the nation’s culture. The play follows Hirsch through his traumatic wartime experience, to his adoptive home in Winnipeg, into the rehearsal hall, on his international adventures, and into his most intimate relationships. The range and impact of his work in theatre was immense: From Brecht to Lorca, Shakespeare to Sophocles, wacky musicals to Chekhov, all of these styles are represented in Hirsch.

Kafka and Son
Director: Mark Cassidy
Writer: Adapted by Mark Cassidy and Alon Nashman from Franz Kafka’s Letter to His Father
Costume and Set Designer/s: Camellia Koo and Marysia Bucolc
Lighting Designer: Andrea Lundy
Performers: Alon Nashman
Other Credits: Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: 13+
When: Friday, 17 July at 18:15 and Tuesday, 21 July at 13:15

Four years before his early death at the age of 41, Franz Kafka wrote a 50-page letter to his father. This letter, a mixture of home truths and self-analysis, provides a thrilling insight into the mind of this most idiosyncratic of great Jewish writers. Adapted from this monumental (and undelivered) letter, Kafka and Son is a blistering, often hilarious, examination of domestic authority, and a journey “into the heart and the mind of the inventor of the modern psyche”. And it is also a chilling precursor to the language of anti-Semitism, which makes Kafka’s work seem so prophetic. Alon Nashman is an award-winning actor, director, producer and creator of theatre. Kafka and Son had its premiere in 2000 at the Ashkenaz Festival in Canada. Since then it has toured to acclaim in North America and Europe.

We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants (7 Deadly New Stories For Consenting Adults)
Director: Lindiwe Matshikiza
Writer: Tertius Kapp, Rosa Lyster, Lebogang Mogashoa, Nicholas Spagnoletti, Justin Oswald and Louis Viljoen
Costume: David Hutt.
Illustrations: Jemma Kahn, Carlos Amato, Dave Jackson and Rebecca Haysom
Stage Manager: Kwame Sibeko
Performers: Jemma Kahn Roberto Pombo
Producers: POPArt productions
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: 16 +
When: Thursday 16 July at 19:15, Saturday, 18 July at 16:00, Sunday, 19 July at 14:00 and Wednesday, 22 July at 13:15.

7 Deadly Sins, 7 writers and 7 new stories…
Jemma Kahn and her irreverent side-kick return in the eagerly anticipated sequel to the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher with stories that seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral. It’s unmissable, definitely not for small children unless you are an awful parent!

Actress And Girl
Director: Simona Mazza
Lighting Designer: Jade Manicom
Performers: Maude Sandham Rachael Neary
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 50 min
When: Thursday 23 July at 18:30 and Sunday 26 July at 18:00

The play is a whimsical and dark story about the kindness and cruelty of strangers. Two women stand together on the side of an empty stretch of road somewhere in the Karoo. They perform for themselves and their imaginary audience, struggling with the dark comedy that life has presented them as they wait for cars to pass. Maude Sandham, Simona Mazza and Rachael Neary have collective experience in devising and directing theatre, as well as physical performance. An original AltEye Production, Actress and Girl debuted at POPArt Theatre, Maboneng in 2014 and was taken to Musho! Festival in 2015.

Alexa – A Mobile Thriller
Production House: VNA Productions
Directed, Designed and Conceptualised by: Quintin Wils
Written by: Herman Vorster
Starring: Carina Nel (from Generations) and Vianney Farmer (From CRAVE)
Running Time: 60 min
Age Restriction: PG 16
When: Friday 17 July at 19:00 and 20:30, Saturday 18 July at 16:00 and 17:30, Friday 24 July at 19:00 and 20:30, and Saturday 25 July at 16:30 and 18:00

Alexa, a method actress, with the help of audience members is busy preparing for her dream role (Lexa) as she picks up a stranger on the street. Literally go on a wild ride through the streets of Joburg and see just how dangerous Method acting can be… So get ready for the most thrilling immersive theatre production ever experienced in South Africa! The performance is site specific, so ticket holders will meet in the Main Theatre Foyer.

Boegoespruit Ext 25
Written and devised by the cast
Director: Leonie Ogle
Set Designer: Nthabiseng Malaka
Lighting designer and technician: Hlomohang “Spider” Mothetho
Stage Manager: Kelly Eksteen
Cast: Kirsty Laverne Marillier, Jovan Muthray, Sharmyan Kassen and Francesca Matthys
Venue: The Nunnery
Running Time: 55 min
Age Restriction: 13+
When: Saturday 18 July at 12:30, Tuesday 21 July at 13:15, Thursday 23 July at 17:00, Friday 24 July at 13:15 and 17:00, and Saturday 25 July at 17:45

This is a devised piece of work by 3rd and 4th year Wits School of Arts Performance students about people living in a Coloured township somewhere, marginalised for different reasons and all hoping that winning a local Talent Show will rescue them from the poverty of their lives. Despite the hardship, they are deeply connected by a love for each other … a group of misfits perhaps but all with stories to tell, sometimes sad but mostly funny, tongue in cheek and aware. The play is part musical with an original score written by the students. Five characters including a spaza shop owner, a newly unemployed bank teller, a high school teenager and a gay hairdresser live inter-connected lives on the periphery of the New South Africa and their individual stories connect and collide to provide a richly textured story about a small coloured community. The play draws on the stylistic devises used in the work of David Kramer and the like.

Father Father Father
Director: Toni Morkel
Writer: Roberto Pombo, Rachael Neary, Joni Barnard
Costume and Set Designer/s: Jemma Kahn and Roberto Pombo
Lighting Designer: Jade Manicom
Stage Manager: Jemma Kahn
Performers: Roberto Pombo Joni Barnard Rachael Neary
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 50 minutes
Age restriction: 16+
When: Saturday 18 July at 19:00 and Sunday 19th at 18:00

Father Father Father is a devised theatre piece created by Roberto Pombo, Joni Barnard and Racheal Neary, directed by Toni Morkel. The show follows the story of three sisters, locked in the basement, awaiting the return of their father. And a big black horse. “The evolving metaphors and symbolism of this ridiculously quirky fantasy, with a menacing twist, underpin a performance piece by three gifted young artists who are creating a zany style and rigorously theatrical language” (Sichel, A. 2014. The Artchive).

Simply Sapiens
Directors: Quintin Wils, Sylvaine Strike, Megan Willson
Writers: Greg Melvill-Smith, Craig Morris, Quintin Wils, Sylvaine Strike, Megan Willson
Costume and Set Designer/s: The Cast and Company
Lighting Designers: Cast and Company
Performers: Greg Melvill-Smith and Craig Morris
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 65 minutes
Age Restriction: None
When: Wednesday 22 July at 18:15 and Thursday 23 July at 19:45

Simply Sapiens takes part in three acts, with three directors and three unique visions asking: Just what does it mean to be human and just what does it mean to be a man?

Act 1: Crossing – Survival or Violence? Our words catalysed into action. Actions recycled through Language. Directed by Quintin Wils and performed by Greg Melvill-Smith.

Act 2: V (i)R(us) – Viruses. In us. On us. Will a mind virus (meme), end us? Are we victims of our own hubris? Technology has infected us with the virus of our infallibility. Directed by Sylvaine Strike and performed by Craig Morris.

Act 3: Going Static – Two guys in a car, going nowhere, on the edge of survival. Who is in charge and who can really say what it means to be a (hu) man? The only thing moving them forward, are the scraps of meaning, breaking through the static. Directed by Megan Willson and performed by Greg Melvill-Smith and Craig Morris.

Dead Yellow Sands
Director: Bo Petersen< /span>
Writer: Graham Weir
Costume and Set Designer/s: Graham Weir and Bo Petersen
Lighting Designer/Photography: Guy de Lancey
Performers: Graham Weir
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: 16+
When: Saturday 25 July at 18:00 and Sunday 26 July at 14:00

Graham Weir’s Dead Yellow Sands weaves an evening of whispers and words as he tells stories united by the theme of stillness and space. The space will be inhabited by an actor, a few lights and an audience. Listening to the stories, the audience will meet ghosts from Weir’s past, walk streets he once lived in and come face to face with a South Africa that may be fading, may be gone but one that lingers on in corners and alleys and institutions we all know well.

Kafka’s Ape
Adaptation: Phala O Phala
Director: Phala O Phala
Original set designer: Leisel Retief
Performers: Tony Miyambo
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: None
When: Saturday 25 July 2015 at 20:15 and Sunday 26 July 2015 at 16:45

Based on Franz Kafka’s A Report To An Academy, Kafka’s Ape is a one-hander that rides on physicality to express the character and its world. The deliberate physicality is meant to reference the physical self as a point of external identity conflicting with the internal identity. Relaying his story, Red Peter speaks from the heart and wants everyone to share the depth of his ape to human transformation story. The play attempts to communicate how humankind has far to go to create societies that break rather than fuse chains that limit identity in terms of personal freedom and development. It speaks to the issues of identity and contemporary desires for self-fulfilment (self-actualisation) in an increasingly restrictive society.

Smaarties
Production House: AbstrACT Productions
Directed and Designed by: Quintin Wils
Written and Performed by: Jannes Erasmus
Language: English (with some Afrikaans)
Venue: Downstairs Theatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: PG 13
When: Sunday 19 July at 16:00, Saturday 25 July at 15:15 and Sunday 26 July at 16:00

Smaarties, written and performed by Naledi Award nominee Jannes Erasmus, is a powerful one-man show about Mr Lotz who finds himself in a psychiatric ward after the death of both of his parents. He still has a 12-year-old sister he has to look after. Directed and designed by multi-award winning Quintin Wils, the play looks at his daily life in the ward and how he is coping and trying to word and explain what really happened that night to him and his parents.

Baterimba With Carlos Balanta
Written and Performed by: Carlos Fernando = Balanta
Venue: Main Theatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restriction: 8+
When: Wednesday 15 July at 20:15

Carlos Fernando Balanta’s energetic one-man show combines several types of drums (kick drum, snare, cymbals, bongos, cowbells and clave), a traditional marimba from the Colombian Pacific, gesture, voice, objects, even a bass guitar, all interpreted, simultaneously, by a single artist giving life to the act – Baterimba. Baterimba achieved recognition in 2012 when the reality TV show Colombia’s Got Talent introduced him on national television. Known for his expertise in combining traditional music with other styles and rhythms while always respecting the roots and the culture of his heritage, Baterimba has been invited to perform and run workshops at national and international conferences. Baterimba has also appeared at festivals in Croatia, France, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador becoming something of a cultural ambassador for Santander de Quilichao, Valle del Cauca.

The Cenotaph Of Dan Wa Moriri
Director: Gerard Bester
Writer: Tony Miyambo, Gerard Bester in collaboration with William Harding
Lighting Designer: Julian August
Stage Manager: Julian August
Performed by: Tony Miyambo
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age restriction: 7+
When: Thursday 16 July at 18:00, Friday 17 July at 19:30 and Saturday 18 July at 17:15

An original commissioned work by Wits Theatre’s So Solo Festival 2014, this is the unfolding of an intimate father-son relationship. How do we create monuments for the everyman to find resonance beyond a single personal narrative? To find form in grief, to examine the disappearances and reconstructions of memory, and honour the intimacy of individual history? The sincerity of a personal narration echoes an d magnifies itself in the context of the universal, allowing the audience to recognise the need of claiming one’s own history.

Crossing
Produced by: Mmabana Arts, Culture and Sports Foundation
Director: Mncedise Shabangu
Writer: Mncedise Shabangu
Lighting Designer : Neo Jobeta
Stage Manager: Irene Mathe
Performers: Tsholofelo Saul Zandile Lubaje Bonolo Tlaletse Jessica Lebogo Shammilla Mosikare
Choreographer: Thabo Rapoo
Venue: Amphitheatre
Running Time: 65 minutes
Age Restriction : 16 +
When: Friday 24 July at 21:00 and Saturday 25 July at 14:00

The story is inspired by Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and it’s a story of five women who are divided by love but united by fate. As the harvest gets closer to time, these women’s stories collide as each woman must decide her own crossing to the other side. It’s a surreal world of magic realism told through elaborative dialogue and movement. Crossing is the story of five women we all know.

Poetry Overload
Produced by: Kiri Pink Nob
Director: J. Bobs Tshabalala
Writer: Various Poets
Venue: Main Theatre Foyer
When: Friday 17 July at 17:00, Wednesday 22 July at 17:00, Thursday 23 July at 17:00, Friday 24 July at 17:00 and Sunday 26 July at 15:15
Running Time: 40 to 45 minutes

Poetry Overload introduces audiences to an eclectic selection of poetry in performance genres and styles from a myriad of contemporary writers and performers. It is format specifically designed for those who appreciate both the literary beauty of poetry, and the magic of live performance. The audiences will be treated to a diverse selection of poetry tastes ranging from slam poetry to prose, free verse, and even archetypal archaic forms, spanning a multitude of presentational styles and languages.

For block bookings contact catherine.pisanti@wits.ac.za or call 011 717 1376.

Visit www.wits.ac.za/witstheatre. To buy tickets, go to www.webtickets.co.za.

Follow @Witstheatre1 and on Facebook WITS 969.

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