Zoleka Helesi as ‘Christine’ in Yael Farber’s Mies Julie (2012). Picture: The Baxter Theatre
Zoleka Helesi as ‘Christine’ in Yael Farber’s Mies Julie (2012). Picture: The Baxter Theatre

Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival is dedicated to the memory of Zoleka Helesi

By Entertainment Reporter Time of article published Mar 11, 2021

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The annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival is back with a bang featuring over 24 brand new and exciting productions from the Western Cape and Gauteng.

In its 11th year, the week-long festival at the Baxter Theatre Centre, in Cape Town, runs from March 20 to 27.

The festival kicks off with the Zabalaza Weekend.

The main festival will run with daily shows throughout the week, culminating with an awards ceremony on the final day.

The 2021 festival is dedicated to the memory of Zoleka Helesi, co-founder and co-ordinator of Zabalaza.

Commenting on the passing of Helesi, Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot says: “The tragic passing of Zoleka in December 2020 has left a huge void, not only to her friends and colleagues from the Zabalaza and Baxter teams but also for the arts in South Africa.”

She adds: “She played a vital role in linking schools with the festival, exposing thousands of learners from various communities to the magic and power of theatre, on a scale that they may not have had before.

Her legacy serves as an inspiration to these young artists, theatre-makers, communities, audiences and all of us.”

Performances will be limited to 100 audience members due to the Covid-19 restriction under the lockdown level one restrictions.

This year the Zabalaza Challenge will once again allow the public to make a significant impact on the festival and the artists involved.

The Challenge, initiated by Foot in 2018, encourages individuals, businesses and organisations to join her in purchasing bulk tickets at only R30 each, for those who might not be able to afford them or would not otherwise be able to attend.

“The Zabalaza Challenge is an investment into the future of the arts as it contributes to the door takings for each show which goes straight back to the groups and artists performing in the festival and which, in turn, encourages more pioneering works from artists in our communities,” says Foot.

She further explained that the festival has empowered many young theatre-makers who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to have their work seen or acknowledged.

The impact of lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the Zabalaza team had to think innovatively and differently about conceptualising and planning this year’s festival, as well as the mini-festivals, which were held at The Baxter in January.

A scriptwriting programme was introduced from August to October 2020 to inspire, encourage and support the development of new plays while creating an opportunity to learn an alternative approach to theatre-making.

The process took place remotely with mentors assigned to the writers.

“It was quite clear from the mini-festivals that the new approach to the script development process and having industry practitioners (mentors) working closely with the writers at an early stage resulted in works of an exceptionally high standard,” says Zabalaza artistic director, Mdu Kweyama,.

He adds: “There is an urgent need for new writers and especially women writers, so we engaged five inspiring women mentors and four men.”

Event Information:

Venue: Baxter Theatre, Cape Town

Date: 20 - 27 March 2021

Tickets: R30, available at Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores.

For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email her at [email protected] or Nontsikelelo Maboza on 021 680 3994 or email her at [email protected].

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