Die gordyn het gesak en die ligte is uitgedoof. Na die uitbreek van Covid19 moes teaters noodgedwonge hul deure sluit. Talle kunstenaars is sonder werk gelaat met party wat plek-plek ander mediums probeer vind om brood op die tafel te sit. Hierdie vreemde tye het opnuut kom bewys hoe afhanklik ons van teaters is.

Alhoewel die innovasie van huiskonserte of Zoom-opvoerings geprys moet word, is die teater maar nog steeds die plek waar talle van ons wil wees. ’n Langer gesprek kan gevoer word oor hoe nodig teaters is vir die voortbestaan van opvoerings, en of produksies sonder die infrastruktuur van ’n tradisionele teater kan oorleef, maar wat nou ter sake is, is die deure wat moes sluit en hoe dit veroorsaak dat talle mense hul sente om en om moes draai om die pap aan die kook te hou. President Cyril Ramaphosa het verlede maand aangekondig dat teaters onder nuwe en streng inperkingsregulasies mag heropen.  

Ek het met Catherine Channing (Adam Small Teaterkompleks), Caroline Calburn (direkteur Theatre Arts in Observatory) en Ané van den Berg (bestuurder van die Drostdy Teater) gesels oor die impak van Covid-19 op hul venues, hoe die heropening van teaters hulle onderskeie venues affekteer, en waarna teatergangers verder kan uitsien. 

1. Hoe is jul venue deur die uitbreek van COVID-19 beïnvloed

Catherine (Adam Small Theatre Complex): The Adam Small Theatre Complex closed its doors for lockdown at the end of March in line with regulatory and Stellenbosch instructions. This meant that no one was allowed in the spaces for any reason- no SU staff, no performing arts student, no external client, event or show.  This had a huge effect on the part time staff that work on the events and shows as they are typically paid per event. The Adam Small is also available for hire from outside parties which has been suspended for the time being.

Ané (Drostdy Teater): Met die uitbreek van COVID-19 was ons op die hond se stert met Toyota-US Woordfees 2020, min het ons geweet dat dit die laaste fees en moontlik lewendige produksies vir die jaar 2020 sou wees. Die fees kon gelukkig klaarmaak, sonder om enige van die produksies te kanselleer. Aanvanklik is gesê dat die teaters sou kon voortgaan met ‘n beperkte hoeveelheid mense in die spasie, maar dit was van korte duur, want kort-voor-lank is die grendeltydperk aangekondig. Ons het nog een opname van ‘n promosie-video gehad voor die grendeltyd, waarna ons die teater ontsmet en “reset” het en toe haar deure toegetrek het. Daar was baie produksies vooruit geskeduleer, wat nou vir ‘n onbepaalde tydperk uitgestel is. Ingrid Howard het vyf jaar terug die Drostdy teater begin, juis om ‘n platvorm vir kunstenaars en tegnici te bied om hulle talent, passie en liefde vir die kunste uit te leef, en daarmee saam ‘n bron van inkomste vir hulle te wees. Met die uitstel van produksies is die inkomste aan alle betrokke partye egter summier gestaak.

Caroline (Theatre Arts): Like all theatres, Theatre Arts has had to temporarily shut its doors.  And do some radical re-thinking.  I think that in the age of corona, theatre has had an existential crisis, but my view is that it is not theatre, as an art form, that has, it is theatres – physical, and inflexible structures that just cannot adapt easily to the new demands of physical distancing and all that comes with that.  There was a period of grief when I realised that the beautiful programme of activities I had planned for 2020 could not happen – and rather than trying to adapt it, I decided to put it on hold and instead put my energy into thinking more immediately about how live performance can happen in a time of corona. I was of the belief from the get go that the coronavirus will be with us for 18 months minimum and so if we want to survive, we have to focus on adapting, on doing things differently, of making live theatre differently.  If as artists we want to keep working in live theatre during this age, we have to embrace the challenges that are being presented to us whilst being absolutely responsible about working within the strict guidelines of two metres apart.  The stage is not an exception.  In fact, it is here where we really learn how to do this.  Artists need to lead the way.

2. Indien die venue groot verliese gelei het, wat gaan moet gebeur sodat die venue kan herstel? Wat het die venue nodig en van wie af?

​Adam Small Theatre Complex: The Theatre Complex lost a lot of income due to COVID, but more importantly the losses extend to the cultural and societal benefits the space helps facilitate. We will bounce back as the industry is agile and progressive. We will streamline our offering and optimise the usage of the venues between academic, cultural and commercial pursuits.

Drostdy Teater: Die kunste verg gedrewe mense wat planmakers is, en Drostdy Teater se span is beslis vol drome en planne om selfs in krisistye te kyk wat ons kan doen om buite die boks te dink. Ons fokus altyd op kwaliteit en om die hoogste standaard te behou verg die beste en mees gekwalifiseerde spanlede en toerusting. Ons nuwe aanlynplatvorm se produksies word deur 4 kameras en kamera-manne opgeneem, daar is ‘n regisseur, vloerbestuurder, klankingenieur en beligtingsspesialis betrokke. Nadat die produksie opgeneem is,is daar ‘n redigeerder wat die opnames redigeer en uitsaai gereed kry. Die produksies word bemark regoor die wêreld en Drostdy Teater se kunshoof werk kliphard om bemarkingsmateriaal te ontwerp en uit te stuur. Al hierdie toerusting, tegnici en bemarking, kos egter geld. Dit sal wonderlik wees indien ‘n borgskap kan help, om hierdie projek aan te vul, om die kunstenaars en tegnici, sowel as die teater – wat tans die meeste van die kostes dra en aangaan, te ondersteun, sodat ons kan voortgaan met die projek en self meer geleenthede kan skep vir kunstenaars om op te tree daardeur. Op hierdie stadium is ons oorgelewer aan die inkomste van kaartjieverkope, wat nie vooraf bepaal kan word nie en ook nie alle kostes dek nie, as enigste bron aan inkomste.

Theatre Arts: Whilst working in the most responsible way possible, constantly refining protocol based on experience that we gather with each show, Theatre Arts needs two critical components – artists who are excited about working in the new format and enjoy the challenge. And as important, audience – an audience who is keen to return back to a new form of live theatre, and return responsibly, understanding the social contract when people commune. The timing of opening has been very important.  The first two months were dominated by a lot of fear, but as the city and the country is slowly opening up, so people are keen to start venturing out. We have worked hard to make it easy for audience members to be able to engage – before buying a ticket they understand what the procedure is and what their responsibility is (they cannot buy the ticket without agreeing to this first) – and they are reminded via email again before arriving at the theatre.  The audience that we have had have loved the performances and the experience – and we do believe that it is a thought through and cared for process that allows everyone to feel relaxed and as safe as one can be, if venturing out.

3. Hoe affekteer die heropening van teaters (onder nuwe inperkingsregulasies) die venue?

​Adam Small Theatre Complex: We are beholden to both national and local government regulations, as well as the internal SU rules and regulations. This means that even if government allows certain spaces or activities to continue we need the approval of the SU before we can commence due to the added measures required from venues and workplaces under the current lockdown rules. The SU ICBC (Internal Committee for Business Continuity) has not yet allowed any creative venues to resume normal operations. The primary purpose for the SU must take priority to ensure teaching, learning and research can continue where possible. The commercial use of venues can not supersede the current academic needs as well as exponentially increasing the risk of infection by using the spaces prematurely. I am confident that they are acting in the best interests of the students, staff and society. We are making provision for a revised seating capacity, all health and safety measures as well as exploring virtual and hybrid event solutions in order to best serve our clients in the future.

Drostdy Teater: Alhoewel die teaters volgens die nuuste regulasies mag heropen, het ons as bestuurspan gaan sit om die implikasies, voor- en nadele, sowel as kostes vir personeel, ontsmetting van die hele teater ens. op te weeg. Daar mag tans, onder vlak 3 van inperking, slegs 50 mense op ‘n slag in ‘n publieke plek (soos die teater) vergader. Kaartjiesverkope sal dus beperk wees en daarmee saam ook die inkomste uit kaartjieverkope. Die inkomste sal dus nie genoeg kan wees om die boeke te laat klop na aftrekking van kunstenaarsbetaling, personeel se salarisse, tegniese fooie, oorhoofse kostes of addissionele kostes vir die ontsmetting van die teater, soos volgens die wet bepaal, nie. Onlangs het AJ Opperman ‘n berig geskryf in die Volksblad, waarin die Markteater se bedryfshoof – Ismail Mohamed – openbaar dat die kostes om ‘n teater te ontsmet, volgens regulasies en veiligheidsmaatreëls, tussen R5000-R8000 beloop. Jy sal dus sien dat ons baie groot verliese gaan lei, onder die huidige inperkingsmaatreëls

Theatre Arts: The first thought that I had when the lockdown began was how to reopen differently as soon as possible in a way that embraced the challenges that the Age of Corona is presenting.  I had and continue to have many conversations with friends who run similarly institutions to myself in other parts of the world, and those conversations have shaped my thoughts.  Interestingly, other parts of the world have been absolutely crippled by over-burdened protocol that removes individual responsibility and turns organisations into virtual hospitals, and in that climate they are struggling to see how they can manage to open at all.  I feel completely empowered by our Presidents proclamation that they have done what they can and it is now in our hands.  I absolutely want Theatre Arts to be part of the solution – to help curb the virus whilst allowing artists to earn, rather than exist on food parcels.  We opened our doors for filming, but I was devastated by the fact that artists weren’t taking the legislation onto the stage.  Watching companies prepare for filming made my anxiety levels rise watching them touch each other and pay no attention to the 2m apart – our greatest defence against spreading the virus.  And so I have made the rules of engagement at Theatre Arts extremely visual and fun to aid recrafting.  Our stage floor is mapped out to help artists and directors and choreographers bear the 2m apart rule in mind at all times and work with it creatively. We have fun posters reminding people to wash their hands and wear their masks and keep 2m apart, and everyone using the theatre is given a comprehensive letter to read before they can work in the space.  I also spend my time observing and offering advice where I can.  An outside eye – in this case a corona police officer – is a very useful thing.  And so that is what I have become.

I feel extremely strongly that the sooner artists can keep 2m apart as a golden rule, the easier conceiving and making and rehearsing work – and living – is going to become.

4. Watter voordele is daar aan heropening?

​Adam Small Theatre Complex: We have been forced to think outside the traditional event box and are redesigning the way our events have taken place in the past. We are moving swiftly towards virtual and hybrid events and see this as the future of our events.

Drostdy Teater: Die kunstenaars en gehore is uitgehonger vir lewendige teater en die ongelooflike interaksie wat slegs tydens lewendige vertonings teenwoordig is. Aanlynvertonings het nie dieselfde “magic” wat die teater bied nie. 

Theatre Arts: Firstly, artists are able to work again, and begin thinking creatively, and laying the foundations for what is going to be a long 18 month – 2 year period of physical distancing.  Theatre offers a wonderful opportunity to rehearse the future.  Creating work within a format by which we are being asked to live our lives, is invaluable, particularly as physical distancing is so hard to do and maintain.  The paraphernalia of the age of corona is exhausting – managing the mask, remembering to wash hands, maintaining a distance – all is emotionally draining whilst having to remember it all, all of the time.  But, for the sake of our grandparents, and friends and family with comorbidities, absolutely essential.  So, working with this level of consciousness helps embed it into our psyche much more quickly and once it becomes second nature, will become so much easier and efficient to manage and therefore be a lot more effective in curbing the virus.

Secondly – we have to get back to living our lives, but living them differently.  For a lot of people live performance is a mental health life-line, and even more so when we are physically distanced.  Adapting and experimenting takes a while, so the sooner we begin to try out and learn from our mistakes to refine the process, the better.

5. Waarna kan die teatergemeenskap uitsien met betrekking tot die heropening of nuwe werk wat beplan word vir die nabye toekoms?

Adam Small Theatre Complex: It’s too soon to say! We are continuing to work with our clients and partners to make 2021 a year to look forward to. We hope that this tumultuous time will not only stimulate new creative thinking and content for the theatre, but also create scalability of shows through hybrid in theatre/streaming events.

Drostdy Teater: Drostdy Teater het ‘n splinternuwe aanlyn platvorm begin: Drostdy Entertainment Online. Ons het alreeds verskeie produksies opgeneem by die teater, wat vanaf Vrydag, 19 Junie, en elke Vrydag daarna, op die aanlyn-platvorm uitgesaai word. Die kaartjies is op Webtickets beskikbaar en gehore kan enige tyd vanaf Vrydae-Maandae die vertonings geniet – in die gemak en veiligheid van hulle huise. Hierdie inisiatief bied weer vir kunstenaars die geleentheid om kreatief te wees en in die teater, met professionele toerusting en hoog gekwalifiseerde tegnici te werk om kwaliteit produksies op die planke op te neem, om met gehore wêreldwyd te deel. Ons is baie trots op die projek en glo dat dit van krag-tot-krag sal gaan, hoe meer mense bewus raak van die nuwe platvorm. Die opnames word geredigeer om van die hoogste-uitsaai-kwaliteit te wees, sodat die produksies die beste moontlike alternatief, naas ‘n lewendige vertoning in die teater te bied. 

Theatre Arts:  This is in the hands of the artists, I guess.  My impression is that many are using the time to prepare work to come back to when things normalise, but whilst I think that this distant future is important to plan for, the immediate future is also one to engage in.  It is a historic time.  We will remember it.  It will produce much innovation.  Already people are turning to digital – this, I believe is a knee-jerk-reaction, but also vastly fun and experimental if one does not think of it as theatre.  Live theatre can explode.  So, I really urge artists to dive in and experiment.  This is the age for experimental theatre to shine – now more than ever.

Sommige van ons wag vir dinge om terug te keer na normaal, en sommige van ons duik kop eerste in die “nuwe” normaal in. Hoe dit ook al mag wees, hierdie tyd gaan definitief in die geskiedenisboeke opgeskryf word as ’n tyd van innovering, deursettingsvermoë, eienaarskap en samesyn (terwyl ons apart is!). We’re all in this together.