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EAGER Artists, a hard-working arts company in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in development theatre, commemorates its 20-year mile- stone with a beefed-up programme running throughout the year.
Under the helm of artistic director, and highly respected theatre practitioner, Jerry Pooe, the company has moulded some of the most talented artists the province has to offer.
Using that talent, Pooe has also worked over the years to revitalise previously deteriorated theatre facilities such as the Wushwini Arts and Culture Heritage Centre in Kwangcolosi (near Hillcrest) and The Stable Theatre in central Durban, which now has a steady board and management team running the facility, and a flourishing artistic programme.
As part of its celebratory season Eager Artists’ programme of theatre and dance works, concerts, children’s theatre festivals, art exhibitions and more is running (and will continue to until the end of the year) at various venues in and around Durban.
With their development projects branching into craft, film, heritage, dance, music and theatre, a host of highlights are on the cards for the commemoration. Although Eager Artists will officially turn 20 on June 21, the 2013 celebratory artistic programme has been running since January and will continue until December.
Some of the forthcoming highlights include a Human Rights exhibition, Eager Artists staging their musicals Let My People Go and Dinuzulu: The Last Warrior at The Playhouse, a children’s festival, the Celebrating Madiba dance pro- duction and exhibition and a Women in Dialogue programme during Women’s Month, among others.
Tonight spoke to Pooe to find out more about the company’s inception and where it is headed.
“At the time Eager Artists started, in 1993, the main objective was to tell our own African stories and to create opportunities for young actors,” he explained.
Over the past two decades Eager Artists has produced performers such as Sdumo Mtshali – who won the inaugural SABC1 reality competition Class Act in 2010, landed roles in Rhythm City, Tempy Pushas, starred in the film iNumber Number and more – Nolwazi Shange, who plays a leading role in the award-winning film Othello Burning, Winnie Ntshaba (who stars as Khethiwe in the soapie Generations), Bonga Dlamini (starred in Zone 14) and Ukhozi FM’s Sthandwa Nzuza, among others.
“The company started in 1993 as a community operative, but today it has a number of sister-company links around the world, including in New Orleans and Rotterdam. As a result a host of artists who would have come in at development level have now studied further in the arts and also perform abroad,” Pooe continued.
Eager Artists has estab- lished relationships with the Lincoln Centre at New York University, the Irish Theatre, the Ujima Theatre, the Western New York Arts in Schools, the Juneteen Festival (all in Buffalo, New York); the Northern Michigan University and the Siberia Theatre, Rotterdam.
“We were lucky to perform in all the mentioned theatres in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ethiopia and Belgium,” he said.
Aside from a busy artistic programme, Pooe will also be working on a host of side projects this year. These include Fermish Road by Ben Okri (directed by Pooe and Roel Twinstra), reviving the Moipone Musical, Celebrating Mafukuzela (with Sibongile Khumalo as lead singer), Animal Farm (opens in April), Let My People Go, Dinuzulu, Madonna of Excelsior (for the National Arts Festival and the State Theatre), and It’s a Man’s World (for Artscape in August).
“My plate is full but, exciting. Eager Artists will also be going to the Grahamstown Festival, Harare International Festival and we are also founder members of the Bosa Festival in Botswana in October.
“My greatest wish for every artist, regardless of the field they pursue, is for them to grow into the best in what they do and to always strive for excellence.”
Here’s a glance at what to expect from Eager Artists this year:
• Human Rights exhibition (tomorrow to March 31) – Wushwini Centre;
• Let My People Go, a musical (April 15 to 26) – The Playhouse;
• Children’s Festival (May 7 to 11) – Wushwini Centre;
• Celebrating Madiba, dance and art exhibition (July 26 and 27) – Wushwini Centre;
• Women in Dialogue symposium and art exhibition ( August 15 to18) – Wushwini Centre;
• Dinuzulu: The Last Warrior, a musical (September) – The Playhouse;
• Art in Schools Festival (October) – Wushwini Centre;
• Sacred Music, a concert featuring Madala Kunene and Patti Nokwe (24 November) – Wushwini Centre;
• 16 Days of Activism Festival (December) – Wushwini Centre.
For the full Eager Artists programme, please visit www.eagerartistsproductions.com