CAN to Take Theatre to Europe and Far East

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By Staff Reporter

WINDHOEK

Theatre performances in Europe and the Far East are some of the major plans of Committed Artists of Namibia for this year.

This was announced by the organising secretary for CAN, Felicity Celento.

“We have been invited to perform our knockout adult play, The Beauty Contest, for a one-week run at a Belgian theatre in May this year. The director of the Tinnenpot theatre in Ghent, Ju Decaluve, who visited the country in September last year, made the formal offer for us to perform the Afrikaans version of the play at his theatre as part of an existing Dutch/Afrikaans language exchange programme,” said Celento.

CAN has previously also performed the Afrikaans versions of King of the Dump and The Railway Man in Belgium as part of the educational outreach programme.

“This invitation is indeed an honour, evidence that our stage works are more and more appreciated by the international world because of content and performance qualities,” she said.

The community theatre group has also made overtures to perform its works in Malaysia and Indonesia as part of international efforts to promote Namibian theatre.

“We have decided on this in line with the Government’s bilateral cultural agreements with these countries. In actual fact it would be a test for us and the Government to either rekindle the existing agreements, which are seemingly never availed to Namibian artists for whom it was originally meant,” she said.

Allegations are rife that senior art officials with very little understanding of arts and culture promotion on national or international levels exclusively make use of opportunities to visit these countries with which Namibia has formal agreements.

“This we learned with disappointment from a local entertainment company when requesting assistance from the Government Art and culture department some two years ago. CAN was informed that the company planned to send some puppeteers to China for a specialised puppet workshop. Their request was summarily turned down by a senior official who indicated to the company that the bilateral agreement was meant for him and others and not for artists,” she said.

“CAN finds this situation totally unacceptable and wants to encourage other community theatre and art groups to follow up existing bilateral agreements for them to actively take part in cultural exchanges. We cannot wait for Government arts departments to initiate programmes. They never do. We need to do it ourselves naturally with the help and cooperation of the Government,” Celento said.

She also announced that the successful four-month theatre CAN festival of last year has now become an annual event.

“Due to the many successes, The Namibian Stage Chronicles Festival, presented by CAN has achieved last year, the executive committee has decided to stage the festival again. This time the event will run from July to October offering acting opportunities to a new generation of Namibian actors,” she said.

According to Celento experience has taught her group that the festival cannot run into November as it did last year.

“In November people are already planning for the Christmas holidays and have little interest in serious contemporary theatre, but an appetite for music at end of year parties. We hope that in future this tendency will change for theatre to be staged throughout the year. This year’s festival has also been planned to coincide with the peak of the tourist season in the country,” she asserted.

CAN is planning to tap into this lucrative market, which is starting to show large-scale improvement in tourist numbers.

“We hope to offer foreign visitors opportunities to experience real Namibian theatre when they visit our country. Presently the tourist industry does not really cater for theatre as we know it, only traditional dances. In our book more should be done than primarily showing overseas visitors wildlife, landscapes and traditional dances. Overseas visitors need to be consistently introduced to the evolving local theatre industry,” she said.

With regard to breaking the longstanding issue of theatre directors and actors never or seldom attending each others’ performances as a rule, she had the following to say:

“There exists this silliness among local theatre groups, in all probability due to professional jealousy, ignorance, arrogance and envy, refusing to attend performances by groups considered to be opposition to each other. We will this year issue such persons complimentary tickets to try and bring them to their senses on how they can improve their own works if they do not see the creative works of others? Cross-pollination of theatrical ideas should be welcomed if Namibian theatre is to flourish.”

She also elaborated on the hesitance and/or lack of interest among politicians to attend theatre productions.

“We have about 100 full-time professional politicians operating in both Houses of Parliament as ruling party as well as opposition party members seldom or never seen at any theatre performance. The few who do attend only are present to deliver official speeches through which they can get their faces onto the NBC television news. This year we will also focus on these politicians to get involved in political theatre they have never experienced,” she said.

CAN is planning the publication of last year’s festival plays as part of its educational outreach programme to create Namibian literature.

This year’s festival programme includes four plays –
King of the Dump, The Bigamist, (by popular public demand. Last year the play raked in the best actor and best newcomer awards of the Theatre Zone Competition), The Blood Brother and Shark Island, a new historic play on the 1904 Wars in the South.

“A much-needed new dimension and feature of the contemporary theatre festival is that some of the plays will for the first time be taken to selected rural towns during the event. This will be CAN’s contribution towards promoting real theatre on a national scale, something no other existing theatre promoting company has thus far undertaken,” Celento said.

According to her the National Theatre of Namibia acts primarily more as a theatre facilitator instead of a theatre creator.

“As far as we know the NTN has no full-time actors company that can stage quality productions to the nation as a whole. NTN is only creating plays by way of its limited scope Theatre Zone and Golden Pen writing competitions, both capital-centered events. The rural masses have been grossly neglected for far too long. We are able and capable to deliver this much-needed educational and cultural uplifting service to the whole nation, finances permitting,” she said.

She concluded saying that this year’s multi-character festival plays are aimed at providing job opportunities to more than 30 Namibian actors.

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