It was August 1988 and I was in New York addressing potential donors as part of an American fundraising drive for the Market Theatre with some colleagues when we were invited to breakfast at the Rockefeller Foundation. This gave me the ideal opportunity to mention my long held desire to create a platform in South Africa for young people who had fallen through the cracks of Apartheid and who had been victims of Bantu education to find their voice to speak out about issues that concerned them and their communities – and to give them the skills to do this. The Rockefeller Foundation instantly liked the idea and offered us the seed money to start such an institution.
I arrived back in South Africa and discussed this concept with the Market Theatre’s Artistic Director, the late Barney Simon, and the Managing Trustee, Mannie Manim. Both were very excited to create a learning space for young people.
In 1989 we opened in Goch Street, under the freeway, with Mark Fleishman as our first administrator. Thus the Market Laboratory was born with Barney Simon and myself as founding directors.
Barney and I structured the curriculum for the newly founded Drama School which consisted of basic theatre skills for marginalised aspirant actors. We decided to use professional theatre practitioners as our tutors as they would impart not only the theoretical background but also give of their practical work experience. I am very proud when I look at the acting fraternity today and see the number of our graduates working in the entertainment industry as actors, writers and directors.
The Laboratory immediately became the most interesting platform for young artists in this country, to meet, interact, engage and discuss issues affecting the arts industry and creative processes.
With the success of the Drama School the Laboratory initiated other programmes – each to meet a need in the community. The next target was the young community theatre groups in desperate need of professional guidance to develop their embryonic works that dealt with the challenges faced by them and their own people. The national Fieldwork programme has worked with hundreds of community groups over the years and its success is evident in the annual Community Theatre Festivals and Zwakala Festivals. Even more encouraging is the number of new works emanating from these Festivals which have been presented on the stages of the Market Theatre and elsewhere in the country. With the assistance of Professor Zakes Mda we started writing workshop through the Resident Project mentoring new, young playwrights and again have had several successful plays staged in professional venues. As a result of these initiatives I can truly say that the Market Laboratory is indeed the crucible of new work and new ideas.
As the youth are such a vital part of our country, again with Zakes Mda’s help, the Laboratory developed a programme for young learners using drama to emphasise the dangers of Aids to our society while the Township Schools Festivals encouraged creative writing in higher primary and high school learners.
Until quite recently, the Laboratory was generously supported by SIDA through the Stockholms Statsteater. My sincere thanks go to Christer Dahl and Christina Olssen for their enthusiastic support of the Laboratory’s programmes over many, many years.
As we celebrate 20 years of great service to our community I would like us to take a moment and pay tribute to my friend and long time colleague, the late Barney Simon, without whom I would not have been able to realise my dream of the Market Laboratory. I would also like to thank Vanessa Cooke, our previous administrator, who played a pivotal role in nurturing the relationship with our Swedish partners and for her commitment to the Laboratory. As we start our third decade I would like to welcome our new administrator, Matjamela Motloung, under whose dynamic leadership the Market Laboratory is sure to continue to thrive as an innovative learning institution in the coming years and offer him my congratulations and support.
DR JOHN KANI
FOUNDING DIRECTOR – MARKET THEATRE LABORATORY
The Market Theatre Laboratory was the brainchild of Barney Simon, the Artistic Director and cofounder of the Market Theatre. The idea for the Lab, as we call it, was in response to the needs of the Community Theatre sector for skills training as well as being a seedbed for the creation of new South African plays.
Dr.John Kani, then the Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, partnered with Barney and raised seed money from the Rockefeller Foundation to set up the Lab. The Lab opened in October 1989 in a small warehouse under the highway in Goch Street Newtown. Mark Fleishman was the first co-ordinator. Showcases were held on Saturdays and Sundays and there were four fieldworkers who worked with the groups. Classes were held for professional actors and these classes evolved into the Lab’s full time Drama School.
The second co-ordinator Tale Motsepe initiated the Community Theatre Festival (known then as the Fieldworkers Festival). This festival became an annual event with groups coming from all the provinces.
The Market Theatre Foundation had never accepted any funding from the Apartheid government and when the Rockefeller grant came to an end we had to look for more funding from overseas as the new order was not yet in place. We turned to Sida – the Swedish International Development Agency. They gave us a grant for 1994. But it didn’t end there. The Lab and later the Market Theatre itself formed a long term partnership with Sida and the Stockholm’s Stadsteater. The partnership enabled the Lab to expand and grow and the exchange proved beneficial to both the Lab, the Market Theatre and the Stockholm’s Stadsteater.
The core work of the Lab has been and continues to be Fieldwork and the two Annual Festivals – the Community Theatre Festival and the Zwakala Festival, the Drama School and the Resident Project. Other projects that have been important through the years involved touring to schools. In the early days we responded to the needs of second language Matrics with the English set work – Shakespeare. We toured to rural schools with both Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. In 1995 we started touring to schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal with a Drama in Education project dealing with Aids and Child Abuse. This project went on for many years until we could no longer find the appropriate funding. We also performed in schools in Gauteng for the Robben Island Museum with the play The Island and the Apple Box.
The Lab has also hosted the Improvisation Company, Theatresports and many try outs of professional work.
The Lab has always relied on the commitment of professional theatre practitioners for teaching and fieldwork and is forever indebted to them for the contribution they have made to the training and development of actors, directors and writers in South Africa.
As all gardeners know, you can’t guarantee a good crop every year, or as Beat, the landlord at our favourite guest house in Johannesburg use to say: ”If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster”. The same goes for theatre. Success and talents can’t be forced but if you, like the good gardener, prepare and cultivate the land and plant your seeds when the time is right and there is enough sun and enough rain at the right times, the chances are that you can bring in a rich harvest at the end of the season.
The Market Theatre Laboratory is more than just a well kept garden, it is a greenhouse for talent and innovations. Since its beginning, envisaged by Barney Simon, it has been the envy of many theatres around the world. Stockholms Stadsteater is proud to have been able, with the help of Sida, to finance, but also artistically, to contribute to most of the activities at the Lab. The drama school, the fieldwork programme, the festivals and the workshops have all inspired us and contributed to the success of our own work in Sweden.
The Lab has been, and continues to be, a home away from home for all of us at Stockholms Stadsteater who have been fortunate enough to be able to work with you guys – Maria and Tobias are only two of the many who have taught at the Drama school and through their teaching gained a lot – both professionally and personally.
We have followed the various groups of students that we have met, since the first time in 1994. So many of them have succeeded in their acting careers and we have met many of them again – on the stage at the Market Theatre or at Stockholms Stadsteater while touring Sweden. We hope they feel as at home with us in Sweden, as we do when we are with you in South Africa. We have been happy to be able to provide students with a bonus after graduation, either by bringing their final production to Sweden, or providing workshops together with actors in Sweden. This led to the school exchange with the Luleå Theatre Academy which we see as one of the highlights of the exchange, together with Maria’s production of The House of Bernarda Alba with a cast of former female students.
The wonders of the Lab is also that it has never been excluding – you have always shared with others, and the two of us have many happy memories of travels with Vanessa, Mpho, Mncedisi and Kenneth – meeting and organizing community groups in Mpumalanga, in Northern Cape, in Mozambique and in Namibia.
The success of the Lab could not have happened without its dedicated leadership and staff. Vanessa Cooke implemented Barney Simon’s ideas and visions and added her own artistic and organisational skills to perfection. And, looking towards the future, the Lab is still in good hands: Matjamela, with his experience and organizational skills, is the obvious successor to Vanessa, Sipho has been and continues to be invaluable in running the fieldwork programme, just as Dan is the leader and inspiration for the Drama school and Oscar, who since he graduated from the Drama school in 1998, has been growing into his new role as Administrator of the Lab.
The partnership between our two theatres has blossomed during the fifteen years it has been in existence – and we cherish it!
We congratulate the Market Theatre Laboratory to its first twenty years and hope that it will continue to thrive and bear fruit also in the future.
For Stockholms Stadsteater
It is a great honour and privilege to write a note about the Market Theatre Laboratory on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. I have been associated with this vibrant and dynamic institution since 2004. However, because of its warm spirit and a sense of hospitality I have been made to feel like I have been part of the Lab family for decades.
In saluting the Lab for reaching this milestone it is imperative that one looks back at the historical context which was crucial in facilitating its emergence. The Laboratory was a product of its socio-economic and political context. It was born during the decade of mass mobilisation when the struggle against apartheid was reaching its crescendo. The end of the 1980s signalled a turning point in the struggle apartheid and saw the re-emergence of the mass defiance movement which was characterised by the “invasion” and capturing of previously segregated spaces with the aim of creating a new democratic and non-racial South Africa. The Lab’s emergence into the theatre scene captured the mood of the defiance campaign and the voices of dissent which were crucial in placing arts in the frontlines of the fight against racial injustices of the time. 1989 was characterised by an unprecedented groundswell of discontent and civil disobedience, not only in South Africa, but all over the world. It’s a year in which the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, thus signalling a new era in geopolitics.
These were the interesting and fearfully hard times during which the laboratory was born. Through the visionary leadership of the two great theatre legends, the late Barney Simon and Dr John Kani, the Lab was established and its role as an agent of social change and a voice of the voiceless has never been abandoned. Being a product of the theatre icons that were crucial in driving the Market Theatre’s protest theatre mission, the Lab had to pay respect to that heritage while at the same time carving a niche for itself as a unique premier training and development space in South Africa. In doing so the Lab had to deal with the challenges of being part of a changing South Africa which still grapples with issues of identity.
Under the leadership of Vanessa Cooke, another theatre stalwart and great actress, the Lab managed to sail through the rough and turbulent tidal waves of the 1990s and the first decade of the 20th century. With her focused and uncompromising leadership style she ensured that the Lab kept in constant touch with the communities it serves. Through her vision the Lab gave many a young people the capacity to realise their dreams of being the best artists and theatre administrators. Her leadership style embodied the original vision, philosophy and values of the Laboratory. It is not surprising that in her mission to nurture young minds she always ensured that she kept trace of where they are and what they are doing.
Through its ground breaking programmes such as the Resident Project, Fieldwork, Community Theatre Festival, Schools Festival, Zwakala Festival, Saturday class and the Drama School, the Lab has managed to embed itself into the lives of all the communities of South Africa. The graduates of the Drama School, drawn from previously disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa, have become ambassadors of this humble institution with a gigantic stature. Its fieldwork project and festivals have unearthed hidden talent and gave space to voices which would have otherwise not been heard. The Lab has given us many household names in acting and directing as well playwrights of high calibre. I am proud to have witnessed the 18th Community Theatre festival and look forward to the Zwakala taking place towards the end of the year.
Without the stoicism, determination and dedication of the staff of the Lab, it would not have achieved what is has over the years. They deserve a special commendation for ensuring that this fine institution manoeuvres the complex maze of the 21st century. With limited resources the team of the Lab have managed to ensure the Lab reaches far and wide and presents developmental work of monumental proportions. The spirit of the Laboratory is encapsulated in their diligence and their determination to make it succeed as a centre of excellence in theatre education and development amidst dwindling financial support for the arts. Under the leadership of Matjamela Motloung, a prominent theatre administrator in his own right, the team is faced with the challenge of ensuring that the Lab embraces the future with passion and confidence while at the same time acknowledging its glorious past. The Lab’s investment in South African talent has proven to be its winning formula and we look forward to seeing more local artists obtaining wings to fly higher and higher.
As we join hands in congratulating the Laboratory in celebrating its 20 years as a centre of excellence and artistic creativity, it is vital to note that 2009 marks the end of decade which has seen significant growth and maturity for the three components of the Market Theatre Foundation. The Market Theatre celebrated 30 years in 2006 and the Market Photo Workshop, another product of the decade of mass mobilisation and resistance, is 20 years old this year. In 2006 the Laboratory and the Photo Workshop’s programmes received special recognition by winning the Arts and Culture Trust awards in their respective categories. I am pleased to note that that although the Lab is likely to move to a new space at the Bus Factory in a few weeks time, it will continue to be part of Newtown’s arts landscape.
On behalf of the Council, former Trustees and the staff of the Market Theatre Foundation, I would like to congratulate the Market Laboratory for turning 20 and I look forward to be associated with this magnificent and iconic institution for many years to come. I hope that the Lab’s outstanding contribution to nation building and fostering social cohesion through innovatively capturing the imagination of the people worldwide will receive wider recognition which it duly deserves.
Former Chief Executive Officer
The Market Theatre Foundation
After 15 successful years of graduating over 100 learners, multiple awards including 3 vita awards, Mpumalanga premier awards, ACT award, Gauteng Provincial Government awards, the Lab bid farewell to the building at the Market Theatre Precinct. New beginnings, new heights and new opportunities is what we have set for ourselves. The Market Laboratory is now based at Johannesburg internationally acclaimed Bus Factory on No. 3 President Street.
The Lab is neighbour to some of the worlds acclaimed training institutions, like The Market Photo Workshop, Moving Into Dance, Artists Proof Studio, Imbali Crafts and Training.
The Market Theatre Laboratory has been running Children’s Theatre Classes for a number of years and throughout these years we have sought to improve the classes with each year passing. At the beginning of 2009 we resolved to experiment with the class format in order to deliver quality programmes.
lass plan for 2011 and beyond
As of January 2010 we no longer run a 44 week class rather we have divided the class into two 16 weeks classes focusing mostly on (but not limited to) performance skills. We will only have one public showcase at the end of the 16 classes, where kids will be certificated. Kids who don’t attend for a full 16 weeks will not be certificated.
The class will be structured into two age groups 6-10 year olds (grade 1-5)and the focus of this group would be to fuse some of the elementary work that the kids do at school and theatre games. At the end of this class, kids would be able to convert nursery rhymes, stories, comprehensions etc into performance skits.
The second age group are kids between the ages of 11- 16 (grade 6-11). This group will be taught basic acting skills, storytelling and interpretation. The class will focus on skilling the kids with the tools to act, write and interpret written text. At the end of this class the kids perform a full length play. At the end of this process the kids would be able to interpret written text into a play. The kids will be certificated at the end of the class.
Admission dates and criteria
The classes run from February 2011 and parents who wish to embark on holidays around the Easter holiday period are encouraged not to register kids for this period.
The second class date will be announced at commencement of 2011. Parents should consider that this class will run into exam periods and parents are advised to inform the Lab of any challenges kids might have with school work so we can also monitor progress in our class.
Due to the current financial meltdown it has become apparent to us that some households are not able to afford to bring kids to class on a weekly basis and still afford to pay fees no matter how minimal it is. We have resolved that these classes will be offered for FREE to the kids and will continue so for as long as there is funding available to sustain them.
The Full –time Skills Programme is a two year course focused on the provision of performance and theatre skills to talented young performers, directors and writers. Classes are facilitated by professional practitioners and attendance of all classes is mandatory.
The 2 year Performance and Theatre Skills is primarily aimed at school leavers and applicants with previous professional experience/ qualifications must provide additional motivation for consideration by the panel.
Applicants should not apply for any bursaries/ financial assistance prior to being enrolled at the Laboratory as we are unable to support those applications until learners have had a successful audition and are enrolled into the program.
Applicants must prepare 2 items for performance at the audition should they be shortlisted. It is in the applicant’s best interest to prepare for the audition and to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.
Applicants are encouraged to attach any relevant information/ creative work for consideration. Such materials must be supplied with the knowledge that the Laboratory takes no responsibility for returning such materials.
Should the panel require the applicant to do a “call-back” – the applicant must make her/himself available on a date considered suitable for such a call-back.
The core philosophy of the programme is multi-disciplinary: learners are required to do all component classes including writing, stage management, directing, design, singing as well as acting. This 2 year full-time course is aimed at talented young people interested in a career in the theatre and performing arts industries. Classes are facilitated by highly skilled professionals and visiting artists. The class size for each year is approximately 12 to ensure maximum contact time in terms of teacher/student ratio.
Importantly the course is not suitable for individuals who merely wish to be presenters, extras or celebrities.
1. 1 full length photograph
2. A completed Application Form
3. Certified copy of Matric Certificate
4. Certified copy of ID document
5. A one page (typed) example of creative writing no less than 250 words
Applications are advertised through the Market Theatre website annually from the 1st to 30th September.
Auditions for enrollment are held in December each year (dates TBA) and communication regarding auditions is limited to shortlisted candidates.
The class fees for the 2011/12 academic year are R13,310.00 and student are required to pay 20% (R2662.00) of the fee by no later than March 2011.
Recruitment of Teachers