Baxter theatre wins transformation award

From left, the Baxter’s artistic director Mdu Kweyama, CEO Lara Foot, finance and operations manager Jeremy Blackburn, senior stage manager Puleng Mabuya and marketing manager Fahiem Stellenboom.

UCT’s Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Awards have acknowledged the Baxter theatre’s transformation efforts.

The theatre received the transformation award when winners in various categories, including global citizenship and service excellence, were announced on Monday December 6 in a pre-recorded video.

“The Baxter theatre under the leadership of CEO Lara Foot has been able to change the traditional landscape of audiences, artists and productions as it continues its commitment to disrupting and transforming in line with UCT’s mission and strategic direction,” vice chancellor Professor Mamokgetha Phakeng.

Ms Foot said she did not think that change could happen without disruption. “But, somehow, in the theatre, you can disrupt minds and disrupt thinking while bringing about an empathy and an understanding as well.”

Ms Foot took over as CEO of the Baxter in 2010 after previously touring London with her award-winning play, Karoo Moose. During this time, she and her company started talking about and imagining what theatre should and could be in South Africa.

“We spoke about creating a home for all artists in the Western Cape, and although that was what the Baxter was signalling, it hadn’t quite accomplished it yet,” she said.

In 2011, Ms Foot launched the Zabalaza theatre festival. “We wanted to provide a bridge between community and professional theatre and really amalgamate the voices of the community into the professional arena, which is what we have done and achieved,” she said.

During the pandemic, Ms Foot and her Baxter team pressed on and Ms Foot said the theatre’s policy was to continue as far as possible.

“Every time there was a dip in the waves, we made sure we did a project to keep the energy burning, but more than that, to provide opportunities for actors and artists who were starving at the time.”

Telling stories and supporting young artists had kept her going over the past two very difficult years, she said.

“Also, being witness to the miracle of these stories unfolding, the communities that are considering the Baxter as their home, and the audiences who have remained so wonderfully supportive.”