The Theatre Managements of SA (TMSA) recently held its 13th Annual General Meeting at the Liberty Life Theatre on the Square, attended by top Theatre Managements from all over the country.
Among those who attended were CEO of the Market Theatre, Sibongiseni Mkhize; the acting CEO of the State Theatre, Aubrey Sekhabi; the new Developer of the Alexander Theatre, Adam Levy; , General Manager of the new Teatro Theatre at Montecasino, Bryan Hill; Mark Hawkins from Very Very Big Productions in Durban; Rita van Den Heever from UJAC Arts Centre; Daphne Kuhn of the Liberty Life Theatre on the Square, Des Lindberg, vice chairman TMSA, and Dawn Lindberg, Executive Director of the NALEDI THEATRE AWARDS; Richard Loring of the Sound Stage; and Kenneth Nxumalo of the State Theatre.
The following were elected unanimously as office bearers for 2007:
• CHAIRMAN : RICHARD LORING
• VICE CHAIRPERSONS : DES LINDBERG / AUBREY SEKHABI • SECRETARY/TREASURER : DAWN LINDBERG • EXECUTIVE : SIBONGISENGI MKHIZE, MELANIE KEARTLAND, BRYAN HILL, KENNETH NXUMALO, DAPHNE KUHN, ALFIE REID
MANAGEMENT COUNCIL AND TASK GROUPS :
• Constitution, Contracts and Labour Relations : Des Lindberg
• SETA/SAQA: Di Sparks, Paula Kelly
• PANSA: Noel McDonald
• TBF: Richard Loring, Bryan Hill
• MEMBERSHIP: Dawn Lindberg, Aubrey Sekhabi, Mark Hawkins (Durban), Di Sparks, Paula Kelly, • MEDIA AND ADVERTISING: Daphne Kuhn, Des Lindberg, Bryan Hill • COMMUNITY THEATRE: Mpho Molepo, Dawn Lindberg, Noel McDonald • DEVELOPMENT AUDIENCES: Melanie Keartland
PROVINCIAL REPRESENTATIVES :
• Western Cape : Pieter Toerien, Percy Tucker, Michael Maas, Mannie Manim,
• Kwa Zulu Natal : Mark Hawkins, Themi Venturas
• FreeState & Northern Cape : no nominations.
• Northwest : no nominations.
A SUMMARY OF THE TMSA YEAR GONE BY
– secretary’s report by DAWN LINDBERG
The SECRETARY of the TMSA, Dawn Lindberg, gave an overview of some HIGHLIGHTS (and some LOWLIGHTS) of the preceding year, and GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST FROM THE 2006 MINUTES : (more or less in chronological order) :
TMSA presented the outgoing Chairman, Des Lindberg with an engraved Mont Blanc pen in recognition of his 22 years as Chairman of SAATM and TMSA, and the 5 years he spent on the State Theatre Board and Civic Theatre Boards respectively. Daphne Kuhn paid tribute to Des for his “dignified, outstanding leadership of this Association.” Richard Loring said that Des “displayed vision and tenacity over the years and that he was a true Theatre Survivor and that he had indeed made a difference.”
* The State Theatre celebrated 25 years.
* The Market Theatre celebrated 30 years.
* Daphne Kuhn celebrated her 200th production with David Mamet’s “Romance” at the Liberty Life Theatre on the Square.
* Dawn attended the Summit at Carnival City in March, convened by Barbara Creecy: “Building Gauteng’s Creative Industries”
* An Arts Management conference was held at the North West University Campus in Potchefstroom in June, with speakers including Deon Opperman, Mike van Graan, Michael Maas, and Karin Meiring.
* Several big shows played to packed houses during 2006; My Fair Lady, We will Rock you, JC Superstar, Swan Lake, The Suitcase and Menopause the Musical to name but a few. Congratulations to the Producers and performers concerned.
* Richard stressed the need for new out of the box marketing strategies for theatre with the opening of 5 new theatres in 2007: Teatro at Montecasino (with Lion King in March), Gold Reef City (with Hairspray in July) the re-opening of the Alexander Theatre (Adam Levy) with Rent in November, the Victory Theatre in Orange Grove (Joe Theron) with Umoja, and The Miracle Theatre in Jabavu White Çity in Soweto.
* Malcolm Purkey said that there are 4 kinds of Theatre in SA: Subsidy reliant Development Theatre, Commercial Independent Theatre, Commercial Subsidised Theatre, and Casino Theatre. All demanded different marketing strategies and claimed a proportion of the market.
* Tribute was paid by TBF to major contributors to the fund over the years: the Baxter Theatre, Richard Loring, Ian Von Memerty and Pieter Toerien.
* Debbie Batzofin celebrated 35 years of working with Richard Loring and has now moved to managing entertainment at Gold Reef City.
* Bryan Hill was appointed General Manager of Teatro Theatre, Montecasino.
* Alfie Reid reported that Computicket now has 210 outlets in various Checkers stores throughout the country.
* Well attended memorials were held for Michael Lovegrove and Anthony Farmer in June, and for Fiona Fraser in January 2007.
* Aubrey Sekhabi has taken over the reins of CEO of the State Theatre until the post is officially advertised and filled.
* Christopher Seabrooke sponsored the building of 110 seat theatre at his old school, Durban High School, to open in June this year.
* A meeting for dancers was held in October facilitated by Gregory Maqoma and Sifiso Kenyama (both of Jazz Art) to address the needs and frustrations of the Ballet and Contemporary dance world and to form an umbrella body similar to TMSA.
* African Footprint was awarded the “Tourism Award” at the Midrand Business of the Year Awards in November
* Dawn was invited to attend a conference facilitated by SATI, (SA Theatre Initiative) to explain the modus operandi of TMSA and also to share the working model for NALEDI with 12 African countries.
* A low light was that after much sleuthing and nagging, it appears that our application for funding for TMSA and Naledi from the Lottery has been irrevocably lost, and a brand new application for both bodies will need to be submitted…
* The updated Theatre Guide was completed in August after many months of research of data by the TMSA Admin office and is available on order from the TMSA office: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Melinda: 011 880 7760. The TMSA Theatre Guide contains a comprehensive list of all Live Theatre Venues throughout SA, as well as a list of all Festivals, and Funding Institutions as well as a guide to budgeting for a show (put together by the late Michael Lovegrove, CEO of the State Theatre) and much other interesting and essential data for established and emerging Theatre Producers and Entrepeneurs. The theatre guide is also available on the TMSA website:
THEATRE DIARY :
* Pieter Toerien initiated discussion about the re-introduction of the THEATRE DIARY, and Dawn followed up on this project with Dirk Joubert of Show Ads. Most members bought in and the diary came to fruition on 1 October.
The diary has been running successfully in the Star Tonight for 5 months.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT AND OVERVIEW OF THE STATE OF OUR THEATRE – RICHARD LORING
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT : Richard Loring
ANNUAL GENERAL REPORT – 01/02/2007
“SHARING INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE A PLATFORM OF GROWTH FOR SOUTH AFRICAN THEATRE”
It was exactly a year ago whilst in Cape Town that I received a phone call from TMSA administrator, Dawn Lindberg, asking on behalf of the members present whether I would be prepared to stand for Chairman for the year 2006/7.
Although complimented by the invitation from the Committee my initial hesitation was based purely on work load for the year ahead which I knew involved intense international travel.
I have just returned from the 50th Arts Presenters Conference in New York where a major four day showcase platform for “African Footprint” was established and then travelled onto Washington for the launch of the Africa Channel TV. My assessment from the meetings with Producers, Presenters and Agents from all over the U.S.A. was that we all had the same challenge and goals, which is simply “to make theatre work in 2007 and beyond.”
This made me realize that my presentation, based on personal contacts ranging from London’s West End to Broadway, Montreal, Canada, Walt Disney’s Florida operation, Belgium and Munich, along with meetings with Show Producers, Lawyers, International Media and P.R. plus seeing show product in London, U.S.A. and Europe, needed to be shared in order to have lasting and altruistic value.
Accordingly, my year end Chairman’s Report which deals very specifically with the advent of overseas influences in theatres and shows, viz a vie local theatres, I have accorded the title “Sharing information and knowledge in order to achieve a platform of growth for South African theatre”.
One only needs to look back to 1994 to see how the current state of theatre has emerged and grown, presenting a challenge to theatre audiences in respect of ticket prices, show content and perhaps more importantly, South African artists who have had to revisit their talent and ability.
There is no doubt that the professional show bar was raised considerably in 1996 in relation to international show content with overseas performers and the introduction of “Les Miserables” produced by show impresario Pieter Toerien and world acclaimed producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
However the first real test in the local market arose in 2000 with the development and introduction of local musicals, such as “African Footprint”, “Umojo” and “Drumstruck” internationally with the second Cameron Mackintosh/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats” produced by Pieter Toerien in 2002.
For the first time since the birth of democracy the International spotlight was falling on the production value of South African shows, the talent of local artists in relation to combined singing, dancing and acting roles and the availability and expertise of local technical staff in relation to box office potential.
That South African artists have been able to deliver in true Broadway/West End style in the eyes of the patrons is evident, in that the critical and financial assessment of shows mounted between 2000 and 2006 the majority achieved high returns for the producers and the investors, with the bar being raised yet again with musicals such as:
* “WE WILL ROCK YOU”
* “JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR”
* “CHICAGO and most recently
* “THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE”
Most significantly in relation to local productions “”Umojo” is in its fifth year and currently playing in Europe, “Drumstruck recently completed a season in New York at the Dodger’s theatre and “African Footprint” after 6 and a half years and some 3,500 performances world wide, is preparing for a launch into the U.S.A. in 2008, “Soweto Gospel Choir” and “Afrika Afrika” and many others, bodes well for local producers and creators looking for overseas opportunities for the future.
We now come to the year ahead – 2007. Certainly looking at the current theatre scene one would have to say there has never been a better time for theatre patrons with forthcoming theatre shows planned such as:
* LION KING
* SOWETO STORY
* ROMEO & JULIET – THE BALLET
* ST PETERSBURG BALLET
* And PETER PAN
To add to all of this excitement is the announcement of five brand new theatres at an approximate investment cost of R 400 million namely:
* MONTE CASINO TEATRO Monte Casino 2 000 Seats
* LYRIC THEATRE: Gold Reef City Casino 1 056 Seats
* ALEXANDER THEATRE: Braamfontein 550 Seats
* VICTORY THEATRE Orange Grove 472 Seats
* MIRACLE THEATRE Jabavu, Soweto
From a financial/planning perspective one must also take into account the following top stage/recording artists who are booked to perform at theatre/stadiums around the country:
* CELINE DION
* CLIFF RICHARD
* GEORGE BENSON – AL JARREAU
* HELMUT LOTTI
* MICHAEL BOLTON and
* IL DIVO
Celebration time it is for our local talent to whom all from TMSA say well earned and deserved, who along with a growing band of dedicated professional agents/ managements are helping to put local talent on the International stages. Certainly from a performer’s perspective, the future of musical theatre, locally and internationally, has never been so good with possibly more work than artists to fill the many diverse roles on offer.
One assumes that common sense and trust will exist and prevail between the Managements, Agents, and Artists in respect of the fairness of the audition process and the contracts to be negotiated.
Certainly on the surface all bodes well for theatre and perhaps more specifically the artists, but with the opening of five new theatres, ten international productions, numerous International artists plus some as yet, unannounced events, could we possibly have reached saturation point?
It would seem not. With the current cost of show tickets varying between R 625.00 to R 65.00 from a mix of shows and venues such as The Civic, Coca Cola Dome, Baxter Theatre, Monte Casino Teatro and The State Theatre, the average price was R 236.00 per seat, to which current patrons have not, as yet, reacted negatively.
However, what we do not want, as a vibrant theatre industry, is to appear greedy by pricing ourselves out of the market, especially to a new theatre going audience. We certainly do not want to kill the proverbial Goose just when it appears to be laying “golden eggs”. However there is no question with some 17,000 seats nightly on offer, to the seemingly theatre hungry public in Gauteng alone, there will there be financial casualties.
Accordingly for the Producer, the show’s success more than ever is going to be down to the following:
a) Name brand recognition
b) Price of the ticket
c) Quality of the production
d) Specialized marketing and promotion
e) Other productions/events on offer
With all the managements after the same critical media coverage, i.e., Radio, Television and Newspapers for “bums on seats”, competition will be rife and fierce.
For new producers entering the market I use the word “caution” in relation to planning, as we all need to be aware that the game of theatre as we have all known is changing in South Africa.
Broadway, in essence, like the West-End, has over years produced and presented, either with their own money or investors’ money, (the Angels) various styles including Vaudeville, Music Hall, Comedy, Plays, and now of course, the big block buster musicals.
Las Vegas on the other hand started out at the end of World War 2 with only gambling revenue as a major source of income, switching to Girlie Shows, Extravaganzas and most recently, potted versions of Broadway shows in order to increase revenue.
Johannesburg also had their Vaudeville, Music Hall and recreated the musicals, even in some instances trying their luck in the overseas market, with shows such as “King Kong” “Ipi Tombi” and “Sarafina”, etc. However, we now have a scenario in Gauteng, unlike any other theatre city in the world, where current and long term theatre will be influenced by the Casino wealth of four Gauteng Casinos:
* Carnival City
* Monte Casino
* Gold Reef City and
Fortuitously with the hundreds of millions being put into the construction of the theatres and international shows, this is an extremely positive contribution for the current South African theatre scene and certainly for the seasoned performers and budding newcomers straight out of Drama School – times will have never seemed so good.
One might well ask how any of this helps theatre which suffered for so long under the previous government. I would say to all our Producers, Directors and Writers to take inspiration from the one of the major commercial successes currently on the Broadway stage. Produced by Oprah Winfrey and drawing a strong black audience for the first time in many years, “Color Purple” has proved that an audience that has stayed away from Broadway and or theatre, will come if the subject matter is entertaining and has been give the right platform through marketing and promotion.
It is complimentary for the theatre industries growth that each and every Producer achieves financial and critical success, however in accepting that “all is fair in love and war”, we certainly do not wish for our industry to become embroiled in “second hand car deals” amongst overseas and local Producers in order to achieve an overnight success.
South African Theatre is faced with the following:
* South African theatre is looking at its greatest growth in many years;
* South African artists will have a wealth of options to choose from;
* Producers are currently being swamped with International Product;
* Theatre audiences will have more theatre and show choices than ever before;
* South African Casinos will start to influence the theatre scene;
* 17,000 Show tickets on sale nightly in Gauteng will create strong competition;
* Producers will be competing more than ever before for share of ticket sales
* Producers will be fighting for exposure in all the media outlets
I believe all of the above will present South African theatre with its biggest growth for many years, for the new as well as seasoned producer, the director, the artists, costume designer, lighting/sound and script writers in order to create our “own piece of Broadway” of which all South Africans can be proud.
Let me say it is possible I am telling some of the more seasoned Producers something they already know, however at T.M.S.A. we know there are young, passionate theatre people looking for guidance and help and we want them to know that the organization, with its professional skills and knowledge, is available at this critical time for everyone to draw from.
Chris Barnard many ago years showed a group of people a glass half full with water and asked his audience to put up their hands if they saw the glass “half empty or half full” to which most of the group put up their hands to say they saw it “half empty”. I believe South African Theatre is currently sitting with a glass half full with opportunities for everyone to benefit from.
However I do not believe that T.M.S.A can be all things to all people, and you possibly cannot do it by yourself, so let us all come together to face the challenge ahead.
In closing I finish my report as I started with the same quote:
“Sharing information and knowledge in order to achieve a platform of growth for South African theatre”.
THANK YOU TO MY RIGHT HAND AND STALWART ADMINISTRATOR OF THE TMSA, A POST SHE HAS FILLED FOR 12 YEARS, DAWN LINDBERG
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