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Industry bands together to support performing artists

Written by Dale Hes

The show must go on – even if audiences appreciate the performance remotely, from the comfort of their homes.

Amended lockdown regulations have made it possible for local performing artists to follow their passion once more.

The regulations now allow performing arts institutions, such as theatres, to use technology to stream live performances to viewers on the internet.

From May until December, the South African State Theatre in Pretoria is airing a variety of past productions on various online platforms and will also look at streaming live productions.  

Artistic Director Aubrey Sekhabi says this will provide welcome relief to artists.

“This is one of various plans and the social economic relief measures being rolled out by the theatre during these trying times. The pandemic provides opportunities as it calls upon all of us to review how we have done things for many years. We needed to think about doing business differently,” says Sekhabi.

“As we establish and grow our digital platform, we will reach audiences across Africa and the rest of the world. This presents our artists with significantly greater earning opportunities when our productions are watched by paying audiences.”

Meanwhile, the Market Theatre in Johannesburg is also using social media to promote artists and enable them to showcase their work.

“We decided as a theatre that we would love to make sure we carry on curating exciting content, celebrating the storytelling of this country, the playwrights and choreographers. We spoke to actors and put together monologues that are visible in the social media space,” says James Ngcobo, artistic director at the Market Theatre.

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) has supported performing artists through the R150 million COVID-19 Relief Fund. Meanwhile, other organisations, such as Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), have redesigned programmes in line with the challenges posed by the pandemic.

In partnership with the DCAS, BASA is running the Debut Programme, which is aimed at young performing artists from all nine provinces. The initiative helps emerging artists launch their first album, film, book or other artistic piece.

BASA also offers a supporting grants programme, which gives creatives once-off, short-term financial aid to cover COVID-19-related medical care or the loss of income caused by the cancellation of confirmed events.

*For more information about accessing BASA grants, email grants.basa@icloud.com.