Closure of Fugard Theatre: an interview with Daniel Galloway

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Picture of Daniel Galloway: Claude Barnardo (https://www.litnet.co.za/press-release-lamees-albertus-appointed-as-general-manager-and-producer-of-the-fugard-theatre/); picture of the Fugard Theatre: thefugard.com

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It is a devastating blow and my heart is broken. It is broken for everyone who was ever involved in some way; it is broken for all those audience members who grew to love the productions we presented and the atmosphere we created inside that very special building; and my heart is broken for all those who worked there.   

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The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town recently announced that it was closing its doors. Daniel Galloway, former managing director and lead producer of the theatre, talks to Naomi Meyer about the closing of one of Cape Town’s most well-known arts venues.

Dear Daniel, I am so sorry to hear about the closure of the Fugard Theatre. Please tell me about your journey with the theatre?

It is a devastating blow and my heart is broken. It is broken for everyone who was ever involved in some way; it is broken for all those audience members who grew to love the productions we presented and the atmosphere we created inside that very special building; and my heart is broken for all those who worked there.   

I was asked to join the team who originally worked on the building of The Fugard in 2009. I consulted on certain elements of the building process and worked as a freelance production manager on the first few productions in 2010. In December 2010 Eric Abraham approached me and asked me to join him as managing director and lead producer. I spent 10 years from December 2010 to February 2020 leading a formidable team of passionate theatremakers from all walks of life as we strove to create the very best possible offering of theatre in South Africa while honouring the memory of District 6 and Athol Fugard. It was a profound privilege and a great honour to lead the team and then to hand over the reins in March 2020 for what was to be the next phase of the life of The Fugard. Very sadly the lockdown measures decimated 2020 and has seemingly led to the theatre’s permanent closure. 

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Every single person, an expert in their own right, who was tasked with providing "The Fugard Experience" loved their job and we equally valued one another’s passion.

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A theatre is more than a mere building. It is an experience, and a home for the arts, as well as for artists. What are your fondest memories of the theatre?

I took great joy in creating experiences for our audiences which attempted to sweep them up and transport and transform them from the moment they arrived at our door or engaged with the box office to buy a ticket. The people working inside that glorious building is what made that space so special. Every single person, an expert in their own right, who was tasked with providing "The Fugard Experience" loved their job and we equally valued one another’s passion. All of my fondest memories are around people. People in the foyer before and after a show, people onstage and backstage working tirelessly to make magic, people in the admin and technical office who kept pushing the bar higher and higher, production after production. 

The Fugard Theatre was created specifically to create a platform for Athol Fugard’s work. Am I right? Could you please elaborate on the importance of Fugard’s work, specifically?

Regarding its having been created specifically for Fugard’s work, no, not entirely. The Fugard Theatre proudly carried Mr Fugard’s name, and did indeed produce many Athol Fugard productions over the years, but it was by no means a singular focus. It was a strong core focus of the theatre to provide a crucible of creativity and beacon of humanity for all South Africans, which strove to honour the remarkable life and work of Athol Fugard. 

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It was a strong core focus of the theatre to provide a crucible of creativity and beacon of humanity for all South Africans, which strove to honour the remarkable life and work of Athol Fugard. 

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It is an extremely dark time for the arts and it is ironic, in a way, because during lockdown people sat in front of screens and books for many hours, absorbing the work of artists. Is there any way to rethink live theatre? Talk to me about the importance of and the conversation between actors and audience.

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The live experience, the exchange between actor and audience, which theatre uniquely offers, cannot be replaced by other mediums.

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The live experience, the exchange between actor and audience, which theatre uniquely offers, cannot be replaced by other mediums. This privilege of going to a theatre to be transported and transformed will come again. 

As for me, I will continue to find ways in which to enable the wonderful artists in South Africa and find ways to present live theatre in time to come. 

  • Daniel Galloway is the former managing director and lead producer of the theatre and has not been in its employ since the end of February 2020.

Also read:

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Press release: Lamees Albertus appointed as General Manager and Producer of The Fugard Theatre

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