SA State Theatre Chief executive Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize, acting health and safety manager Ellen Mashiane and PR and Marketing Manager Erick Ndala at the theatre. Picture: James Mahlokwane
SA State Theatre Chief executive Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize, acting health and safety manager Ellen Mashiane and PR and Marketing Manager Erick Ndala at the theatre. Picture: James Mahlokwane

State Theatre finally ready to open doors for first time since March

By James Mahlokwane Time of article published Oct 16, 2020

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Pretoria - The South African State Theatre is finally ready to open its doors to the public for the first time since March when the Covid-19 hit the country and forced the theatre to postpone loads of events.

Chief executive Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize and acting health and safety manager Ellen Mashiane made the remarks in an exclusive tour of the theatre to showcase readiness to operate the theatre under a new normal.

The new normal unfortunately made managing the theatre even more expensive than before as measures were put in place to decontaminate the theatre after every show and every month even when not used, regardless of whether there was a positive case or not.

They'll officially be reopening their doors and kick-starting things with a live performance of the Folklore Concert by Mbuso Khoza set to take place at the Opera Theatre on October 30 and 31.

Mkhize said unfortunately the event will only accommodate a maximum of 250 seated people in the 1 300 seater, as per the level 1 regulations set out by the government to strike a balance between saving lives and saving livelihood.

He said: "To have a limited number of people is of course a financial blow but not only for us but for theatres across the world. The difference is how we come up with innovative and creative measures to make it work.

"It is not commercially viable to perform for 250 people in a 1 300 seater, given the fact that there is so much investment that goes into staging a play. The advantage is that we have also come up with a way of embracing technology whereby we professionally record everything so that the play or the show is available online and it has a longer life.

"At the moment we are happy that the artist community which badly needs this opportunity will be back on stage and will also be able to interact with their audience. What we are basically trying to do now is to keep the sector alive and also provide relief to the artists by having this hybrid measure to have activity on stage and online."

He said, in the interest of saving lives and livelihoods, the theatre spent over R4 million of its annual budget to put plays online from May through an artistic programme. Some of the public work was from the archives, thanks to foresight of starting to record plays about 6 years ago when some people feared that it could kill the purpose of theatre as it was meant to attract audiences to the theatre.

"At the time people did not support it because they felt that we are driving people away from the theatre, not knowing that one day they'll be an unprecedented event to make all humanity unable to have plays. What this enabled us to do is to make sure all the artists featured are paid in the repeat staging of their shows," he added

Mashiane said even though they could have opened earlier when the government announced the transition to level one, a lot of preparations needed to be done at every entrance and every venue in the entire theatre.

She said, come October 30, people will feel safe inside the State Theatre. She said even the sale of tickets is also limited with ticket dealers as per the new seating arrangements.

She added: "The State Theatre went an extra mile because in terms of safety we take the health of every person who will be here very seriously. We bought our own disinfecting machines and sanitising machines. I can definitely say there is light at the end of this tunnel, in the next couple of months we'll be able to come back in full force."

Pretoria News

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