Zwakala Festival


he Market Theatre Foundation’s Community Theatre Development Programme (Fieldwork Programme) critically supports the development of new plays at grass roots level. Professional fieldworkers drawn from the theatre industry and who share the Market Theatre Foundation’s ethos are engaged to share skills with community theatre groups in townships and rural areas, to enhance the quality of their plays by nurturing the inexperienced actors, writers and directors.

Following a call-out for participation, community-based theatre groups are auditioned. From the scores of productions that are evaluated, a select number of groups are identified to receive fieldwork training.  The level of intervention and mentorship increases as groups proceed through each phase of the fieldwork programme in preparation for a showcase performance to the broader public.

Ten groups that show the greatest promise are transported and accommodated in Johannesburg to participate in the annual Zwakala Festival where the plays are judged by a panel of experienced and professional theatre practitioners. The Zwakala Festival invites media, professional practitioners, agents, producers, other festival organisers and other theatres to be exposed to the companies that are on the threshold of wanting to become professional.

Sipho Mwale

Each year, one production at the Zwakala Festival receives ‘bragging rights’ as ‘The Best of Zwakala’ and is awarded the opportunity, that many dream of, of having their play professionally produced and staged on one of the world-renowned Market Theatre stages.  In preparation for their professional debut at the Market Theatre, the winning group receives coaching and notes from the Market Theatre’s Artistic Director. The entire Market Theatre team also throws their weight behind the production allowing it to grow to a first-class production.  A full budget for the production makes provision for a team of professional designers (set, lighting and sound) along with a production budget for costumes, set and props. The Market Theatre’s Branding & Communication Department spearheads a promotional campaign that promotes the production and supports the catapulting of individual careers into the professional industry.

“Hola Majita” – Thulani Didi and Kere Nyawo, “Flat Nose, Short Hair” – Martin Koboekae and Jullian Seleke-Mokoto, “Eita Daar, Hoezit” – Jabulani Masilela, “Bus Stop Blues” – Faca Khulu, “Kotutula The Late” – Pitso Molefe and Bheki Vilakazi, “Gumboots Dance” – Zenzi Mbuli, “Phambili Theatre Group” – Skhwenene Dlamini, “The Whistlers” – Bafana Dumezweni, “Chakalaka” – Tefo Dipholo (passed away), “Kuku Roefs” – Bongani Linda (passed away), just to mention a few, these some of the community productions that made their mark in those days. It was no surprise when Vanessa Cooke and Dr John Kani responded by demanding an annual  slot for  community based production.