Magnet Theatre trainees get a chance to shine

Christine Skinner: Multiple award-winning Magnet Theatre presents Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s classic comic-tragedy The Visit from 14 to 16 June in Observatory, Cape Town.

Co-directed by Mark Fleishman and Warona Seane, it will star the talented trainees of the fifth Magnet Theatre training programme.

With a limited run, this is a rare opportunity to see this seldom presented classic masterpiece, performed by 17 of the next generation of South African performers, who are in their second and final year on Magnet’s Training and Job Creation Programme.

 Magnet Theatre trainees in Knock.

The Visit explores societal issues around human nature and the human connections we sell out on in the face of financial gain and social advancement. In The Visit, a wealthy older woman returns to her former hometown with a dreadful bargain. In exchange for their participation in an act of vengeance, she will provide enough money to revitalise the crumbling town. Will the townspeople resist temptation or give in to their greatest desires?

“The Visit is a classic text – it’s a big play with a great story that makes for a funny, engaging theatrical experience,” says co-director Mark Fleishman. “Set in mid-20th century Europe, the play challenged the trainees to find connections with a world that was different to theirs and bring those parallels to life for a modern South African audience.

“With themes such as how power and financial gain can corrupt people’s minds and hearts, and seeking justice for the wrongs of past events, The Visit remains relevant to the current environment in South Africa. Due to the scale of this play, it is rarely produced professionally, so this is also an incredible opportunity for the trainees to experience a production of this nature. We are extremely proud of how they have interpreted it and can’t wait for audiences to see them in action.”

Set and Costume Design is by Craig Leo, Lighting Design is by Mark Fleishman and Themba Stewart and Musical Direction is by Shaun Karssen.

The trainees are: Abigail Mei, Andiswa Anthony, Asamkela Ketelo, Bonga Tshabalala, Carlo Daniels, Luxolo Mboso, Siyavuya Gqumehlo, Palesa Mohlala, Rene Brown, Siphesande Mkokose, Sivenathi Macibela, Sizwe Lubengu, Songezo Mtshixa, Sityhilelo Makupula, Vela Leon Zozo, Kamva Obose and Yvonne Msebenzi.

As part of its shift into the next era, with this production Magnet will also be launching its new logo and visual identity which has been generously designed by Si Maclennan and the team at MADE Agency.

Magnet Theatre’s full-time, two-year Training and Job Creation Programme is a skills development initiative that helps youth bridge the gap to tertiary education and employment in the industry. Of the close to 100 participants since 2008, the programme has been instrumental in facilitating access for 25 first generation university attendees. Twelve have graduated and 9 are still studying. Seventy two per cent of the others have found employment in the profession. During 2017, fifteen graduates were employed at Magnet Theatre in various capacities. Fifty one graduates have been employed in a total of 10 000 performances, with 48 new productions created by the graduates. An incredible 94% of all graduates are either employed, self-employed or furthering their studies.

“These figures illustrate the tangible impact the training programme has on the lives of the participating youth,” says Jennie Reznek, co-founder of Magnet Theatre. “Funding remains an ongoing challenge and if you would like to assist, I encourage you to get in touch with us.”

Magnet Theatre is one of South Africa’s best known independent physical theatre companies that has been operating in and outside of South Africa for the past 30 years. In addition to creating 39 original, award-winning productions, Magnet runs multi-layered educational programmes that are aimed at the transformation of young people’s lives and the theatre industry as a whole. Most recently the company toured New York and Toronto with their Early Years Theatre productions SCOOP for babies and KNOCK for young audiences. Other productions that have been incubated at Magnet have travelled across four continents.

The Visit will be performed from 14 to 16 June at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday 16 June at 2pm at Magnet Theatre, Corner of Lower Main and St Michael’s Roads in Observatory. Limited seating, booking is essential. Ample parking is available next to the Theatre.

Tickets cost R70 with concessions for scholars, students, pensioners and groups of 10 or more at R50. Bookings can be made at Webtickets: www.webtickets.co.za

For further information about the Training Programme, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxwa_f0G1D4

The Magnet Theatre training programme activities are generously supported by:

The TK Foundation, Rand Merchant Bank, Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, HCI Foundation, HCI Foundation Community Transport Support Programme, Western Cape Government Expanded Public Works Programme, Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Rolf-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation, Potjie Foundation, The Goethe-Institut, The Joan St Leger Lindbergh Charitable Trust, Distell Foundation, Business and Arts South Africa, Ampersand Foundation & Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

For information about how to support Magnet’s Full Time Training and Job Creation Programme to ensure continued building of future artists, email admin@magnettheatre.co.za or call 021 448 3436.

Notes to Editors
Full Time Training and Job Creation Programme

In 2008, after working for 7 years supporting various drama groups in Khayelitsha, Magnet Theatre initiated a sustained 2-year full time training programme, based in Cape Town.

The Full time Training and Job Creation Programme caters for youth who for one reason or another struggle to gain access to tertiary education. Some have educational disadvantages from their schooling and don’t make the University entrance grade. Others struggle with funding or with simply feeling out of place in the strange environment of a higher education institution.

The programme offers a carefully structured programme to 20 talented performers in each 2-year cycle. There are classes in play, imagination, physical theatre, voice, dance, singing, improvisation and play making. Training takes place Monday to Friday between 09h00 and 16h30. There are organised visits to the theatre to expose the groups to mainstream and community performance. They are placed in work shadow in various aspects of the theatre industry. The participants are encouraged to maintain their connection with their communities and with their groups. The programme was originally designed by Jennie Reznek, Mandla Mbothwe and Mark Fleishman, and the classes are taught by highly experienced theatre practitioners and teachers. As always with Magnet Theatre’s work the focus of the training is on the body as a universal language that can communicate across cultures and verbal language while understanding that the teaching of physical theatre is one of the responses to violence and the violated body. The programme focuses on the development of skills and on the ability to generate new work. Each trainee receives a ‘bursary’ (stipend) to ensure that they have transport and food to attend the training.

Magnet’s goal, where possible, is to bridge the divide between the community and tertiary educational institutions. Where this is not possible, it is to provide skills, expertise and a sense of direction to talented marginalised young people so that they might become employable in the creative industries. The broad intention is of transforming the theatre industry from one that is white dominated to one that is more inclusive.

Currently Magnet is busy with the fifth cohort of trainees who began their training at the start of 2017.

From their youth development programmes, Magnet has been instrumental in facilitating access for 25 first generation university attendees. 12 have graduated and 9 are still studying. 72% of the others have found employment in the profession. During 2017, 15 graduates were employed at Magnet Theatre in various capacities and lengths of contract as teachers, facilitators, technical staff, actors and directors. 48 new productions have been created by the graduates.

Magnet also has a theatre making mentoring programme attached to the Full Time Training and Job Creation Programme. So far they have mentored 4 theatre makers: Lwanda Sindaphi (Magnet Theatre graduate), Nwabisa Plaatjie (UCT graduate), Siphenati Mayekiso (Magnet Theatre graduate), Sivuyile Dunjwa (Magnet Theatre graduate) and one designer: Asiphe Lili (Magnet Theatre graduate). They have received mentoring in enterprise development, proposal writing, fundraising, teaching as well as and developing new works over the course of the year’s internship.

Synopsis of impact of the programme:

According to the 2017 graduate M&E tracking:

• 94% our graduates are now either employed, self-employed or furthering their studies.

• 72% are employed in the creative industries and broader economy

• Magnet Theatre has been instrumental in facilitating access for 25 first generation university attendees. 12 have graduated and 9 are still studying. Last year 2 Magnet graduates won class medals for the Best Actor at UCT Drama School (2nd year) and the prize for movement.

• The 51 graduates have been employed in a total of 10 000 performances in 2017

• 48 self-generated productions that have been created since graduating. These are new South African productions dealing with issues that give a voice to their own lives and the lives of their communities. They have been performed in venues ranging from community halls in Cape Town townships and Sophiatown in Johannesburg, to the Baxter Theatre Zabalaza Festival, Magnet Theatre, Zwakala mini festival in Johannesburg, the Soweto Theatre, Theatre Arts Admin in Cape Town, Grahamstown Fringe Festival and Cape Town Fringe and Masque Theatre.

• Four registered NPO’s have been created: Africa Jam (involving 1 graduate), Rainbow Arts (involving 2 graduates), Sophumelelo (involving 1 graduate), and UKAO (involving 7 graduates) In 2017 a further 3 entities were registered: Thembisa Ratanga (involving 1 graduate), Afro Theatre (involving 1 graduate) and Magenge Productions (involving 1 graduate)1 NPO in Clanwilliam (COMNET) has been registered involving long term participants of the annual Clanwilliam Lantern Festival. 1 trust has been established: Imbewu Trust (involving 3 graduates) 1 closed corporation: Lingua Franco (involving 2 graduates) 1 ex- trainee is also involved in their own music acapella group, Muziek Sensation, performing, recording their work and selling their own CD’s.

• Five youth who have grown up in the Clanwilliam arts project are now giving back through COMNET, running workshops, performing and teaching in Clanwilliam. One is permanently employed as an Arts & Culture Teacher in a primary school in the region as a result of the training in the Clanwilliam Arts Project; two others are employed by the Western Cape Expanded Public Works Programme to roll out arts workshops in the area.

• Graduates are now touring independently with their own product and offering short-term employment contracts to their peers.

• Graduates have been employed to perform in productions that have toured internationally to Germany, Italy, USA, UK, Sweden, Dubai, Hong Kong and Reunion Island.

• Four works that were created during the training programme for Early Years audiences have had international success and provided ongoing employment for their directors and cast members: Aha! has toured to Germany; Paired will follow this year. Sandscapes and Woodways are performing in Africa and on the international Early Years Theatre Festival circuit in Europe.

Magnet Theatre
Magnet Theatre is one of South Africa’s best known independent physical theatre companies that has been operating in and outside of South Africa for the past 30 years. In addition to creating 39 original, award-winning productions, Magnet runs multi-layered educational programmes that are aimed at the transformation of young people’s lives and the theatre industry as a whole.

Magnet Theatre also runs the only suite of bridging programmes in theatre arts for unemployed youth in the Western Cape. Magnet Theatre is a registered Nonprofit Organisation and is an Opco of 2 Trusts: The Magnet Theatre Educational Trust and Magnet Training and Youth Upliftment Trust (with 18A status). Magnet has 3 Artistic directors: Professor Mark Fleishman BA, Perf. Dip. (Speech & Drama) MA (UCT) PhD (UCT) Mandla Mbothwe BA (Hons) Perf. Dip. (Speech & Drama) (UCT) MA Theatre Making (UCT) Jennie Reznek BA, Perf. Dip. (Speech & Drama) (UCT), Diploma Ecole Jacques Lecoq (Paris, France), MA (UCT)

In 1998 Magnet registered as an Educational Trust and formalised their training into multi-layered arts educational processes aimed at developing and transforming marginalised youth and impacting on the transformation of the theatre industry itself. They run:

* a two-year Full Time Training and Job Creation program for talented unemployed township youth, bridging the gap between the communities and tertiary institutions of education and the theatre profession as a whole;

*a Culture Gangs project with approximately 200 school-going youth, meaningfully engaging with young people, imparting skills and encouraging a commitment to culture and not to crime; and

*a rural arts program for approximately one thousand children in the remote Cederberg municipality.

In 2013, Magnet created the popular and award-winning Tree/Boom/UmthI for three to seven-year olds which has performed all over Cape Town and internationally, gaining acclaim and critical success in Italy and Germany. Tree/Boom/Umthi won the Dassie 2014 Award for Best Children’s production and has tours planned to Germany, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and Ireland.

This follows Magnet’s internationally successful Every Year, Every Day I Am Walking for teenagers that has toured to 17 countries in 28 international tours. Magnet Theatre was also nominated by Assitej for the 2014 ASSITEJ Award for Artistic Excellence in Theatre for Children and Youth and received a 4th Honorable Mention (out of 35 companies) for ‘the original style of their work and the wide range of activity from professional theatre to theatre with youngsters’.

In 2015, Magnet Theatre created the Early Years Theatre Company with support from a 2015 National Arts Council Flagship grant with input from ASSITEJ South Africa, Goethe-Institut, and SA-UK Seasons 2014&2015. The Magnet Early Years Theatre Company aimed to challenge the dominant canon of theatre for children that is created and presented in South Africa (largely influenced by European and American story- telling) and create indigenous, unique and age appropriate South African Theatre for Early Years audiences.

A small youth company, it was charged with developing three new performance pieces for the 0 – 7 age group. The three pieces toured to crèches, child care centres and schools in Cape Town townships and rural areas of the Northern Cape and Cederberg municipality as well as a run at Magnet Theatre. The company was responsible for creating a South African first: SCOOP: Kitchen Play for Mom’s and Babes was the first ever South African play for mom’s and babies under the age of 12 months old.

The Company is comprised of five young theatre makers who have received extensive training in the field of Early Childhood Development Theatre: Koleka Putuma, Jason Jacobs, Indalo Stofile, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe and Sivuyile Dunjwa

International travel
Magnet Theatre has created employment opportunities for young actors to travel and perform internationally with product that has been created as part of their training. These young people have never before had the opportunity to travel outside of the Western Cape. These tours have had a powerful impact on their income generation possibilities, providing role modelling and raising status in their communities. The experience has often been life changing. Tree/Boom/Umthi provided employment and international travel for 4 actors performing in NYC, Italy, Germany and the UK, as well as extensively in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Ekhaya and Knock! have also performed extensively in South Africa (employment for a young company of 5 township actors). Ekhaya has performed in Italy and will be travelling to Reunion and France later this year. Knock! and SCOOP recently traveled to New York and Toronto.