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Scripting the future of SA theatre

Written by Mbulelo Baloyi

Sport & Recreation

A playwriting programme aimed at producing South African playwrights for the future has been started to encourage talented young people with an interest in this field. The programme is a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture, Wits University, the British Council and Sustained Theatre (UK).

Photo: Tshwane University of TechnologyThrough the New Plays Writing Programme, the Department of Arts and Culture aims to discover new talent and open doors for many people who want to pursue playwrighting as a career. The programme was started to encourage interest in playwriting as this is an area that has been neglected in the arts sector.

"The programme will provide young playwrights with skills that will allow them to build sustainable livelihoods for themselves," said Arts and Culture Minister, Paul Mashatile, at the programme launch in Johannesburg.

The South African New Plays Writing Programme will give a new generation of South African playwrights the necessary tools to develop plays for theatre. These should reflect the kind of society that South Africa is and the one that government wants to build.

World stages

“We are confident that this programme will produce new writers of the same talent as seasoned playwrights such as Todd Matshikiza, Barney Simon, and John Kani, to name a few,” said Minister Mashatile. The programme will assist the Arts and Culture Department to develop new playwrights whose productions will hopefully feature on major world stages, ensuring that South African stories were told to a wider and larger audiences.

Skills development

The department has a detailed plan on how to increase the arts, culture and heritage sector’s contribution to economic growth and job creation in line with the New Growth Path’s goal of job creation. This includes the establishment of a National Skills Academy for the Arts.

The academy will become a centre of excellence to train the best of the best that our country can offer.

New ideas

Minister Mashatile said at the height of apartheid, many activists wrote and performed poetry and drama at their homes, in community halls, in schools and in churches. “We must now use playwriting and theatre as part of our weapon in the battle against the socio economic challenges of our country. It is for this reason that we emphasize that initiatives such as the SA New Plays Writing Programme must create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods especially for our young people.”

The playwright programme will include the sharing of new ideas and will exchange programmes between South African and British playwrights.

For more information, call the Department of Arts and Culture: 012 441 3000