Some of Durban’s leading theatre veterans have come together to form a performing arts academy.
The Durban International School of Performing Arts (ISPA), which is affiliated to Trinity College London, is set to open next month.
Many of the city’s top theatre personalities and behind-scenes experts are linked to the new academy which aims to foster a passion for theatre among young people.
Lisa Bobbert, Des Govender, Anthony Govender, Aaron McIlroy, Simon Mann and Daisy Spencer, among others, will give students one-on-one training in various disciplines within the arts and entertainment sector.
Bobbert said their aim as to empower young performers with the necessary skills to work locally and internationally in all forms of the performing arts, as well as creating and developing their own work.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for about 10 years. It’s been an idea that’s been brewing in my mind, of how to do something like this where kids who finish school can do a really intensive course in musical theatre.
“So they can spend their time really honing their skills, be it dancing, singing, acting. I wanted a place from which kids can come out with confidence and belief in themselves, not to just go and audition for roles, but to create their own work.”
Bobbert said that there was a lot of talent in Durban.
“I am a Joburg girl and when I was studying we all wanted to get to Durban because Durban was the best place for theatre. The Playhouse was the place to be, it had the best productions.
“I think now we have lost that and I don’t really know why. It makes me really sad that Durban has so many talented kids but, if their parents can afford, they go to Cape Town or Joburg, and go into the industry in those areas, so it’s a bit of a drain. Kids don’t want to stay here.”
Hoping to change that, the new academy, which is embedded in the Olive Tree Church complex in Durban’s Florida Road, will hold up to 15 students in the beginning but there’s hope of expanding.
“I think we have so much talent available to us that we can do little pop-up theatres or collaborations with a market. There are so many opportunities, we don’t even know.”
Bobbert said that while they were trying to get funding, a school fee has been applied.
“At the moment we have about nine students. We wanted to start small so that we can really give everybody individual attention as well.
“If anybody would like to sponsor a student, our rent or teachers, we are very open to that, because it is expensive to start something like this from scratch.
“Everyone who is coming on board knows that it’s a bit of a passion project at this stage, but there will be fees, because we are private even though we are trying to get funding in various ways. This is for anyone who finished school and wants to do this as a profession.”
The ISPA is set to offer 1, 2 or 3 year international diplomas, and classes comprise of a daily dance class offering a different style of dance each day, voice classes, drama classes, and other various workshops from industry experts.
“I’ve approached every professional in Durban and they’ve all said yes. Everybody said that they would love to do a workshop or a master class.
“We’ve also planned for our learners to shadow and learn from some of the best theatre production companies in Durban. They will get to watch rehearsals and dress rehearsals, learn about design, lighting, set-making and all other aspects of putting on a production.”
Bobbert said that the course will be very practical. However, there will also be internationally set exams written at the end of the year.
“There will be academic aspects to it, but it is very practical. At the end of the first year, students will need to produce a 20 minute showcase which includes singing, dancing and acting. The 2nd and 3rd year will be more advanced.
She added that while they would love for their students to stay and work in Durban once they’ve completed their education, if the opportunity comes up for other work, they would encourage them to take it.
“By the end of it we want them to walk out into the arts and entertainment industry ready to tackle anything, so we want them to audition, but at the same time we know that this is going to build up Durban again,” said Bobbert.