The search for some of the best talent in the Western Cape is on as the Zabalaza mini festivals hit eight regions across the province over the next few weeks. This year the Baxter’s highly popular Zabalaza Theatre Festival celebrates six years of the best in development theatre in the Western Cape and in South Africa.
Widely regarded as the premier platform of its kind in the country, the festival hopes to be another jam-packed line-up, showcasing some of the most outstanding talent from in and outside of the province, mostly selected from the eight mini-festivals to be held from Saturday, January 16, to February 7.
Starting off in Robertson on Saturday, the first of the mini festivals will take place at Nkqubela Community Hall, followed by Stellie’s Lounge, Khayamandi in Stellenbosch on Sunday, January 17 – both events kick off at 10am. Thereafter the search continues at the Makukhanye Art Room, Khayelitsha, on Saturday, January 23, and Black Box Theatre in Delft on Sunday, January 24. On Saturday, January 30, Alexander Sinton High School in Athlone will host the mini festival and then on Sunday, January 31, it is Cedar Secondary School’s turn, in Mitchell’s Plain. The final weekend for the search takes place at Guga S’thebe in Langa on Saturday, February 6, and Zolani Centre in Nyanga East on Sunday, February 7. Entrance to these venues will be free except for Robertson where the cost will be R10.
From the participating productions seen during the mini festivals, the final selection for the Zabalaza Theatre Festival, which takes place from March 11 to 19, will be made.
The festival will kick off with the Zabalaza Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, when all venues and spaces at the Baxter Theatre Centre will pulsate with diverse artistic activities. This will be followed by the Main Programme from Monday to Friday, March 14 to 19, culminating in the award ceremony on the Saturday. Here the best of the festival production will be selected, along with several other awards in various categories. The winner will receive a full run at the Baxter later in the year.
The festival has received great acclaim over the years since it was launched in 2011 when it saw an overhaul that resulted in a new name, managing team, vision, format and programme designed to showcase new and upcoming talent that may otherwise not be seen on professional stages. The full name, Zabalaza Intsika eBaxter Theatre loosely translated, means two things: striving towards being a pillar of the Baxter Theatre Centre and striving towards success.
Since its inception the festival has grown exponentially as the organisers pay special attention to innovation and expanding the programme. Previous Best Production winners are ‘Uhlazo by Loyiso Damoyi’ (2011), ‘Worst of Both Worlds’ by Bulelani Mabutyana (2012), ‘Skierlik’ by Phillip Dikotla (2013), ‘The Champion’ by Khayalethu Anthony in 2014 and Paul Noko’s ‘Fruit’ in 2015. These productions went on to be staged at various festivals and events in the Western Cape. ‘Skierlik’ received two Fleur du Cap nominations and Khayalethu Anthony won the Fleur du Cap award for Best Performance In A Review, Cabaret Or One-Person show for ‘The Champion’.
“We are determined to offer audiences an exciting and diverse variety of the immense and abundant talent and enthusiasm that exists within our communities,” says Zoleka Helesi, Zabalaza Co-ordinator. “Thanks to the generous assistance and support from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, we are able to continue this much-needed showcase.”
The team heading up the festival are Thami Mbongo (Artistic Director), Zoleka Helesi (Co-ordinator) and Bongile Mantsai (PRO). The core team is complemented by a number of fieldworkers; various artistic experts who play the role of mentors to these theatre groups leading up to the festival’s opening.
(picture: Winners at the 2015 Zabalaza Theatre Festival,pic by Fahiem Stellenboom)