Press release: The Baxter's Zabalaza Theatre Festival is calling for play script applications for the 2021 season

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Following it’s hugely successful 10th anniversary in early March, South Africa’s leading development theatre platform, the Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival, is calling for applications for the 2021 season, which will be different from previous years. The closing date for applications is 31 July 2020 and the form can be found here: https://forms.gle/q1ZDkU5g35b9SPCc8.

The Zabalaza team has come up with a new and exciting model for applications with the introduction of a Script Writing Programme, which came about in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

From left: Zimkhitha Mathiso, Solulele Sijadu and Likhona Mangaliso in Abahlolokazi (Photo: Star Zwane)

This new approach to the application process is a result of SA’s State of Disaster and the government’s implementation of a national lockdown. In this way Zabalaza can continue its planning of theatre programmes for 2021, while considering the importance of a safer alternative to working on theatre productions.

The Script Writing Programme will serve as a foundation phase in the first round of the selection process, designed for first-time writers. It focuses on developing the skill of conceptualising and drafting scripts for theatre. Theatre-makers, directors, script writers, community groups and theatre companies are invited and encouraged to apply. 

Zabalaza artistic director, Mdu Kweyama explains: “Given the current global response to the Coronavirus pandemic, this Script Writing Programme seeks to inspire the development of new plays and presents an opportunity to learn an alternative approach to creating theatre productions.”

Mava Silumko and Sinesipho Sophini in First accused (Photo: Star Zwane)

He continues: “There is an urgent need for writers in the arts industry and we would like to encourage first-time writers who have stories to share and who just need a nudge in the right direction. We are also placing  an emphasis on women writers and directors and strongly encourage them to apply.”

There are two options available. The first is the submission of a play script which will be further developed and refined. The second option is to submit a brief concept for the play which applicants would like to enter into the festival and which will be developed into a script. Both options will be facilitated by Zabalaza mentors who are established industry practitioners.

Theatre groups and companies are advised to select or appoint a writer or two from their organisations. These individuals will be responsible for the development of the scripts. In phase two of the process the mentors will assist to develop the scripts into plays. It is important to note that the second phase will depend on the level of the lockdown and when the government deems it safe to resume operations, probably with social distancing restrictions. At this point the Zabalaza mentors will have contact time with the applicants in their rehearsal venues, taking all regulations into account.

The completed productions will be presented at mini festivals which are scheduled to take place in January 2021. This is a preliminary date which, once again, will be finalised pending the country’s lockdown regulations. The final selection process will decide which productions  will participate in the 11th annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival which is planned for March 2021.

In previous years application forms have been made available at various theatre spaces and through organisations in the Western Cape. This year, however, in keeping with lockdown restrictions, all applications will only be available online. The link to the online form can be accessed from all Zabalaza Theatre Festival and The Baxter Theatre Centre’s social media sites, website or requested via email from zabalazafestival@uct.ac.za.

The Zabalaza Theatre Festival is made possible by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the City of Cape Town, Distell and HCI Foundation.

Participants from the Western Cape will be prioritised and applicants from outside the province will only be accepted if funding permits and this will be at the discretion of the panel.

The call is open to previous Zabalaza participants, who are welcome to present either new or old productions they previously brought to the festival, as well as first time applicants. No plays that have participated in the Zabalaza main festival can apply, only those that made it to the previous mini-festivals.

All kinds of theatre is welcome, be it ensemble work, two-handers, children’s theatre productions, puppetry, musical theatre, drama, comedy, physical theatre or traditional storytelling. The Script Writing Programme is currently able to facilitate concepts and scripts written in English, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans.

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