Sunday, 26 July 2015

Keeping It Fresh And Making A Move

On Monday I got to attend the opening of what had always been the Krêkvars Student Arts Festival, but is now the Krêkvars-Kopanong Student Arts Festival. "Krêkvars" is a play on an afrikaans saying that means something is so fresh that it cracks. I have no idea what Kopanong means.  I’ve been part of this drama festival for the past seven years, and I’m even in the Festival’s Facebook profile picture and on the website. This year is the first year that I won’t be performing in or directing at least one production. Attending the opening made me realise why.

This image is from Three Wall Temple directed by Nico Scheepers and is the image the Krêkvars-Kopanong Festival uses for media. The photo was taken by Christiaan Harris with, from top to bottom: Luan Jacobs, Gopala Davies, myself Chandre Bo, Werner Coetzee and Brinsley Motsepa.

The Krêkvars Student Arts Festival started as a platform for the Honours directing students at the drama department to create and direct theatre and was the platform via which they could showcase their work. Later the third year drama students obligatory became part of this process for their acting marks. The festival grew over the past 15 years and has become a space in which students and young writers, directors and actors form every walk of life can create and showcase their work at a minimum cost. Although there are a lot of outside shows now, there has always been a majority of Tuks, and old Tuks students creating shows with the current set of Drama students. I have performed at the opening evening which was always held the Saturday evening before the Monday opening of the festival at least three times over the past few years. Although the festival was a cornerstone in my education, learning about performance and theatre in some ways it had become a wall for me. Keeping me safe in an area where people knew me and respected my work.

This year I didn’t have the capacity to enter. I’m now living far away from the people I know and that I could potentially work with.  I had rehearsed and performed for a corporate event and been to Europe in the time when I would have needed to be working on a show. And if I had entered a show for the festival I would most likely have missed out on my own personal growth and the growth of my marriage the unplanned excursion to Europe had offered me. It just wasn’t possible for me to enter a show this year, although I was still very aware of entering dates, closing dates and when the festival was to start.

The week before the festival opened I said to my husband that I found it odd that I hadn’t received an invitation for the opening as I was still a Masters student and we were always invited. A day later I received a message saying that I was invited to the Festival Opening, on the Monday evening when the festival had already started. This year with a new name and a new time for the press-opening I now had to choose which show I wanted to watch as two were to be performed, and I had to pay an entrance fee for my husband (in the past I was always able to take a plus one with me at no cost). It was different. Very different. 

As we walked to the noise on the grounds of my alma mater and my beloved drama department my husband asked:

“Are you going to know anyone here”

I knew at least two of my friends would be there for certain.

“Probably not. Maybe.”

The strung fairy lights, gas heaters and lit trees of the Drama Department quad that hosted the speeches of the official opening at the University of Pretoria.
As we walked into the highly excitable crowd of actors and dangling fairy lights I heard my name being called by people who had studied there before me, people who were younger and I had directed and worked with and were all at the opening in various capacities. Some as current post-grad students, some as directors for shows running at the festival and some just because they had nothing better to do on a Monday evening. The general confusion as we tried to figure out what was to happen next as the invitation was vague and trying to find a glass of wine that the first years who were supposed to be working hadn’t already downed in a dark corner somewhere was familiar. For a moment I remembered what it was like when I was still an undergrad student. And then I bumped into an old friend who I had worked with a lot, but had not seen in a while due to work and proximities. 

“We only had two weeks of rehearsal for the festival” he told me.

“I pulled out of a presentation so that I could focus my attention on the show”

The presentation he had pulled out of was with a friend of mine who I strongly believe is going places. And the presentation he had pulled out of was for at television channel. Only he will know if the call he made was the right call. But I realised if our places had been switched it wouldn't have been the call I would have made.

This year I have heard from actors of all levels of experience, and inexperience, semi-celebrity and complete unknown that our industry has been eerily quiet. I’ve felt it in the declining amount of castings I’ve attended in our winter months. So as much as I understand wanting to be in the walled-in safety of the festival I realised on Monday evening that it was time for me to move on. To try to get my work into bigger festivals. To work with new people as well as the familiar ones. To embrace the new city I’m living in. If I want to be seen as a professional and not just a student I should starting acting and working like one. It's time to ditch the student card and grab a set of keys for the big world.

As we left the festival at an early hour as my husband had to work in the morning and I had various tasks that required my attention I was filled with nostalgia. The festival was so different from what I had been used to and I couldn't expect it to stay perfect in time for my annual return. It had grown and become something different and it's time for me to take that cue.
You know its Festival time if you're drinking red wine form a plastic glass. Or a styrofoam glass...

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