Neat partnership lifts Bay theatre

Neo Bodumela

NELSON Mandela Bay theatrical artists are set to receive training as part of an exchange programme with a US-based company.

Actress Marti Gobel and her company, Renaissance Theaterworks and Uprooted Theatre from Milwaukee, will be taking Port Elizabeth by storm, with a view to create a long-term exchange with theatre groups from the Bay.

Their stay here will include a one-woman production and a workshop and play reading for 40 Port Elizabeth actors and actresses.

Gobel will perform the one-woman production of Neat at 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow night. The autobiographical 90-minute play written by Charlayne Woodard will see Gobel take on a mammoth 24 characters. Neat is centred around the young Goddard, who grows up in awe of her brain-damaged aunt, Beneathea “Neat” Harris.

Harris brings about a profound change in Goddard’s life.

Tickets cost R65 and R50 for students and pensioners and are on sale at Computicket.

The exchange programme has been arranged with the Isithatha Trust, an initiative started by Sharon Rother, Gift Buqa and Phambili Ngcanyisa, together with Judith Tietyen of the Sinakho Trust.

It is being run in collaboration with the Port Elizabeth Opera House.

Rother said the programme was formulated nearly two years ago by Chicago-based arts project group Ewe Masenze, who visit Nelson Mandela Bay annually.

“Tietyen, of Sinako Trust and Ewe Masenze in Chicago and Milwaukee, visits PE annually and works with folk in the Walmer Township. She connected with me through my work with Gift and Phambili and eventually the idea happened,” Rother said.

She said that once Tietyen had initiated the collaboration, the planning started about two years ago.

“The workshops … will include actors from Walmer township, The Rother Swain Studio, the Performing Arts Company of the Eastern Cape and Stageworld.

“They will include script work, theatre training techniques, sharing of American ways of doing things, discussions, theatre games – you name it.”

The 40 local actors involved in the workshops will be part of the national US project 1VOICE! 1PLAY! 1DAY!, for the upliftment of African American Theatre.

This will involve a closed play reading of two pieces of theatre, A Soldier’s Play and Four Little Girls, by the 40 actors, on Monday.

As part of the exchange programme, Rother said the group was hoping to go to the US to perform a play made in Port Elizabeth.

“We are looking to take a home-grown PE play over within the next year. This will give artists from PE a chance to expand their boundaries and for the US to get to know more about South African theatre and culture.

“Art needs to move forward. We grow from working with different ideas and people and by networking.”

PE needs this process badly, Rother said.

“We have a proud tradition in PE and much talent comes from the Eastern Cape, but it is good to expose people to different cultures and countries. Each group has a slightly different way of working and we can learn from this.”

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