World Theatre Day 2024: Jane Mpholo responds

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World Theatre Day was celebrated on 27 March 2024. Jane Mpholo talks to Naomi Meyer about the significance of the day for her.

World Theatre Day was celebrated on 27 March 2024. What does this mean to you? What do you think it means to the people you know (and to other South Africans)?

World Theatre Day is a reminder to me of the incredible contributions theatremakers bring to the world. However, it also brings about the realisation of how many black South Africans, especially in rural areas, don’t often get the opportunity to be introduced to the world of theatre arts. I feel confused on this day. Happy that we celebrate the magic of theatre, but sad that the concept doesn’t make sense to most. It’s like having an inside joke – although the punchline may be incredible, the depth is understood by only a few individuals.

This day will forever bring the pain of how much still needs to be done in terms of audience development and bridging the gaps.

What is the meaning of live theatre in this modern world? Why even bother with theatre? It is so expensive – why not simply spend money on other things? Is theatre important at all?

Live theatre is one of the most magical things one can experience. Nothing comes close to mimicking life as it is, the way theatre does. Taking a seat in the auditorium and being granted an opportunity to walk the journey with the characters, in real time … that is something no other medium can offer. 

Theatre creates a safe space for people to see themselves and others (mirrors the society), without fear of judgement. It grants that objective view and thereby aids to awareness and the necessary changes. 

Even though it falls under the entertainment industry, theatre provokes discussions, teaches, and can be therapeutic. It takes a big team to get an idea into fruition. It takes a special team to leave an everlasting mark on someone’s life, be it visually or solely the performance aspect. Theatre moves. 

What do you think about the position of South African theatre? Anything you want to say about productions created, about festivals, anything you'd like to write about regarding this topic?

South African theatre is quite diverse and that’s what I appreciate about it. The only sad thing is the fact that we are not taken as seriously as America does the Broadway. 

With that being said, having been to different festivals as a performer and audience member, I have to say it’s quite fun how one can always find something that speaks to one. From ritualistic theatre to farces and drama, all of the festivals have diversified their programmes, thereby reaching different audiences.

There are also some shows that you may create which are not well received in Bloem, for example, but would get awards and recognitions at the National Arts Festival. Understanding audiences also plays a significant role in the success of the show. 

Creatives must also do their research before they spread themselves too thin. We are always in a hurry to get our shows out there, so much so that we sometimes premiere them on the wrong platforms or while they haven’t matured. It’s always important to remember that a piece of theatre work can always grow, and that while you nurture it you must seek opportunities that will contribute towards the growth instead of taking away from it. 

Also read:

World Theatre Day 2024: Ignus Rademeyer responds

World Theatre Day 2024: Jeani Heyns responds

LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop: Jane Mpholo's review of Ijoloba (final version)

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