Training youth for the stage

Trainee Sizwe Lubengu rehearses The Visit at the Magnet Theatre.

The Magnet Theatre’s training and job creation programme is drawing more youth to its Observatory-based stage and bridging the gap to tertiary education and employment in the industry.

Their two-year programme is a skills development initiative which has been running for the past 10 years, assisting close to 100 participants since 2008.

It has been instrumental in facilitating access for 25 first generation university attendees.

The programme was initiated after seven years of supporting various drama groups in Khayelitsha.

Jennie Reznek, co-founder of the Magnet Theatre, said the training programme, now in its 11th year, had made a significant and tangible impact on South African youth. Twelve have graduated and nine are still studying. Seventy-two percent of the others have found employment in the profession and during 2017, 15 graduates were employed at Magnet Theatre in various capacities.

Fifty-one graduates have been employed in a total of 10 000 performances, with 48 new productions created by the graduates. She said 94% of all graduates are either employed, self-employed or furthering their studies.

“These figures illustrate the tangible impact the training programme has on the lives of the participating youth. Funding remains an ongoing challenge and if you would like to assist, I encourage you to get in touch with us,” Ms Reznek said.

She said the theatre’s goal, where possible, was to bridge the divide between the community and tertiary educational institutions.

“Where this is not possible, it is to provide skills, expertise and a sense of direction to talented marginalised young people so that they might become employable in the creative industries. The broad intention is of transforming the theatre industry from one that is white dominated to one that is more inclusive,” Ms Reznek said.

The programme offers a carefully structured programme to 20 talented performers in each two-year cycle. There are classes in play, imagination, physical theatre, voice, dance, singing, improvisation and play making.

Training takes place Monday to Friday between 9am and 4.30pm.

There are organised visits to the theatre to expose the groups to mainstream and community performance. They are placed to work shadow in various aspects of the theatre industry.

The participants are encouraged to maintain their connection with their communities and with their groups. The programme was originally designed by Ms Reznek, Mandla Mbothwe and Mark Fleishman, and the classes are taught by highly experienced theatre practitioners and teachers.

The Magnet Theatre runs multi-layered educational programmes that are aimed at the transformation of young people’s lives and the theatre industry as a whole. “Most recently, the company toured New York and Toronto with their Early Years Theatre productions Scoop for babies and Knock for young audiences. Other productions that have been incubated at Magnet have travelled across four continents,” Ms Reznek proudly said.

Magnet will stage the Friedrich Durrenmatt’s classic comic-tragedy The Visit from Thursday June 14 to Saturday June 16, staring their fifth group of trainees on the programme.

It is directed by Mr Fleishman and Warona Seane.

“The Visit is a classic text – it’s a big play with a great story that makes for a funny, engaging theatrical experience. Set in mid-20th century Europe, the play challenged the trainees to find connections with a world that was different to theirs, and bring those parallels to life for a modern South African audience,” said co-director Mr Fleishman.

“With themes such as how power and financial gain can corrupt people’s minds and hearts, and seeking justice for the wrongs of past events, The Visit remains relevant to the current environment in South Africa. Due to the scale of this play, it is rarely produced professionally, so this is also an incredible opportunity for the trainees to experience a production of this nature. We are extremely proud of how they have interpreted it and can’t wait for audiences to see them in action.”

The trainees are Abigail Mei, Andiswa Anthony, Asamkela Ketelo, Bonga Tshabalala, Carlo Daniels, Luxolo Mboso, Siyavuya Gqumehlo, Palesa Mohlala, Rene Brown, Siphesande Mkokose, Sivenathi Macibela, Sizwe Lubengu, Songezo Mtshixa, Sityhilelo Makupula, Vela Leon Zozo, Kamva Obose and Yvonne Msebenzi.

For more information about the training programme, email or call 021 448 3436.

The Visit will be performed from Thursday June 14 to Saturday June 16 starting at 7.30pm with a matinee on the Saturday starting at 2pm at the Magnet Theatre, corner of Lower Main and St Michael’s Roads, in Observatory. There is limited seating and booking is essential. There is ample parking is available next to the theatre.

Tickets cost R70 or R50 for pupils, students, pensioners and groups of 10 or more. Book at Webtickets.