Kenneth Tynan said that “no theatre can sanely flourish unless there is an umbilical connection between what is happening on the stage and what is happening in the world”.
Theatre has had a profound purpose since its very inception. It shares a sense of what it is to be human. It is a place where people come to seek truths about life.
Two artists and businesswomen, Hayleigh Evans and Orly Shapiro, founders of POPArt Theatre, recognise and value the significance of theatre in a society. For the last six years, they have been in the business of introducing new theatre to new audiences.
Founded in 2012, Evans and Shapiro had the vision to create an accessible space for the performing arts in Johannesburg, a space where established and emerging creatives could come together, network, develop and share skills and ideas, as well as perform.
POPArt Studios is a theatre, production company and performing arts centre based in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct.
POPArt stands for “People of Performing Art”. Its key aim is to provide a platform for new works of theatre in South Africa.
This picture shows the interior of POPArt. Picture: Phillip Santos
POPArt provides an essential space for performing artists to access both the industry and new audiences at large. It incubates and fosters emerging talents, and aims to educate performing artists in aspects of the business by sharing knowledge that will help artists create their own sustainable careers.
Today, POPArt has established itself as a premiere performance space and theatre company.
Evans and Shapiro believe there is no competition in a developing industry, and thus all successful individuals, spaces and projects will contribute to growing the arts and culture industry in South Africa. Through the showcasing of new works, and a growing online platform, POPArt is actively engaged with the South African entertainment audience and their interests and preferences.
POPArt values inclusivity, non-competitive collaboration and innovation.
The company has staged over 500 new live productions at their theatre space from 2012 to 2018. As such, they have been part of the narratives of many successful productions, and have created strong relationships with key writers, directors and performers in the South African entertainment industry.
POPArt has produced multiple touring productions since the launch of their production company in 2015. These include We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants, Unfair Lady and Samuel Beckett’s Not I.
POPArt. Picture: Phillip Santos
POPArt has significant long term partnerships with the Market Theatre Foundation and William Kentridge’s Centre for the Less Good Idea.
They are consistently involved in projects that develop and further local theatre. This year they also boast with their first international residency.
What do these two young and dynamic impresarios attribute their successes to?
Evans says that, besides for consistently producing new fresh work of a high standard, she attributes their success also to POPArt being a collaborative space in which artists have a sense of ownership and where everyone involved can feel able to contribute.
She also believes that by creating a space where artists can unrestrainedly converse about their views on often-times contentious and sensitive issues, POPArt is filling a gap in the Joburg theatre market by presenting theatre that is pertinently relevant, truthful and necessary.
Forthcoming productions at POPArt include Books & Boxes. written and performed by Linda Jackson Tshabalala and directed by Tebogo Machaba (May 17 to May 20); The Box Comedy, featuring top local comedians (May 20, 27 and June 3, 10); Three Sisters, concept and design by Karina Lemmer, performed by Mariska Denysschen, Jénine Grové, Lorraine Makara, Hendrien Martins, Bukeka Mbonyane and Gali Moabi (May 24 to May 27), and Gomora, written and performed by Mlindeli Zondi and directed by Tsholofelo Mmbi (May 31 to June 3).
* Visit www.popartcentre.co.za to book tickets.