By Frederick Philander
WINDHOEK – If a feasibility study and architectural plans are approved, the now ill-equipped and very ineffective Boiler Theatre at the Katutura Community Arts Center can undergo a massive make over of more than N$3 million in the near future.
This was said in an exclusive Art/Life interview with the Head of the Extension Programme of the College of the Arts, Lucky Pieters.
“As far as I know Government money for this theatre project has already been approved. The architectural plan, which are in my possession, is in the process of being finalised for submission to the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture,” Pieters said.
The Boiler Theatre historically served as a dining room-cum-hall for migrant workers before independence.
“The grand plan caters for the building to be dramatically transformed into a professional theatre by way of a double story in the existing building’s main hall. The plans also provide for a fixed stage, movable chairs, a sound-proof rehearsal room, improved toilet facilities as well as an amphitheatre at the back of the building,” he said excitedly.
Up to now the quality of theatre productions in particular have been spoilt due to the very bad acoustics of the Boiler Theatre.
“I see things totally turned around in the quality of works, attendance figures for productions and the general appearance of the place once the renovations have been completed within the next year or two,” said Pieters.
Crystal Smit Architects in the capital will do the transformation.
According to Pieters the top floor will be used for lecturing purposes of the national extension programme.
“This will include lecture rooms for at least eight tutors, now accommodated in various small rooms in and around the premises, as well as offices. It is my intention to transform the building into a real, vibrant creative centre for all artists to be part of, unlike the situation is at present. I also see the theatre in future as a worthy centre giving existing better equipped and financed theatre venues a run for their money,” he said.
“These renovation plans are to be welcomed because at last the government has realized the importance and value of the venue. However, presently the Boiler Theatre unfortunately only has a proper creative atmosphere, but technically, administratively and security wise absolutely nothing. These shortcomings have made the presentation of productions at The Boiler Theatre a nightmare for outside groups to perform in,” said the organising secretary of Committed Artists of Namibia, Felicity Celento, on inquiry.
Her community theatre group has recently successfully completed a vibrant four-month contemporary theatre festival, a first for Namibia at the Boiler Theatre.
“Though the festival was staged successfully, we worked and rehearsed under the most trying conditions to improve the quality of our works, plays that were eventually awarded by the recently held Theatre Zone Competition. Actors continuously lost personal belongings, costumes, expensive cameras and props during the time we rented the theatre, due to a lack of proper security and control. We sincerely hope that a more professional theatre administrator be appointed when the renovated theatre becomes operative,” Celento said.
CAN has for a long time been a fiery proponent and supporter of a new and modern national arts centre for all disciplines under one roof for the future.
“The arts and culture sector has been growing by the day and future projections indicate an inevitable further growth in the industry as an economically viable one. It is better to prepare now before the arts and culture sector is once again caught pants down in the years to come. It would not be a far-fetched idea to start investigating such a possibility at this early stage. One of the reasons for this is that Government buildings such as the National Art Gallery are falling apart and others are bursting at their seams due to overcrowding,” she said.
It is general knowledge that most of the available old equipment in the Boiler Theatre was dumped for use by well meaning existing theatre promoters such as the National Theatre of Namibia.