Audiences will experience the power of performance next month when Drama for Life’s full-time professional theatre company and the internationally acclaimed Swedish national theatre Unga Klara join creative forces at the Wits Theatre complex in Johannesburg to explore the role of the arts in building a child-centred society.
The groundbreaking collaboration will take place at the 11th Drama for Life International Conference and Festival, with the theme Transforming Arts | Transforming Lives: Towards a child-centred society, reflecting the biggest binational investment in children’s culture in Southern Africa to date.
Registrations are now open for the programme, running from 8 to 17 August 2019. On the menu is cutting-edge research, performances, installations, dialogues, training, workshops and more. Those attending will get the chance to interact with fellow artists, arts healers, therapists and educators, cultural leaders and managers, academics, researchers and activists.
The Drama for Life Theatre Company, established in 2016 and supported by the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, will be officially launched at the conference and festival. The 10-member theatre company will perform a range of works aimed primarily at children aged four to 16.
Based at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Arts, Drama for Life is a unique academic department for applied arts, arts therapies and arts research, including a creative research hub. It undertakes local, regional and international projects, using the arts to innovate for social change, transformation and healing. The Drama for Life Theatre Company is one of the many creative research projects based at Drama for Life that seek to transform lives for the better.
Unga Klara is Sweden’s national theatre for children and young people. Its partnership with Drama for Life will form part of its 2019 worldwide tour. Unga Klara is renowned for its cutting-edge theatre work, tackling complex issues through heightened theatricality and innovative performance aesthetics.
The Swedish Ambassador to South Africa Cecilia Julin says “The embassy is thrilled over the continued cooperation between Drama for Life and Unga Klara at the 11th Drama for Life International Conference and Festival next month. Together they will unleash spectacular creativity and touch the lives of many children and young adults”.
The company will stage four trailblazing productions during the festival: Because I Say So (for children aged three to six); My True Selves (a classroom play around identity, primarily for children aged eight to 12); Girls Will Make You Blush (a combination of dance and theatre about menstruation and puberty for 13-year-olds and older teens); and X (a play about colonialism and racism for teenagers aged 15 and up).
“Collaborating with an illustrious theatre company such as Unga Klara promises to be a major highlight of our conference and festival this year. We are extremely excited about the partnership – particularly since Unga Klara’s work ties in so seamlessly with our child-focused theme this year,” says Drama for Life director Warren Nebe, the conference and festival curator.
“It’s through partnerships such as these that we can truly harness the power of theatre, drama, poetry, song and dance, to reflect on – and attempt to understand – the world we live in, and the world our children will inherit.”
Many South African children face high levels of violence, disease and malnutrition, and lack access to early childhood development programmes or educational facilities. Often, they are vulnerable, discriminated against and isolated.
Transforming Arts | Transforming Lives: Towards a child-centred society aims to respond to this situation, reflecting on how innovations in the performing and applied arts, arts therapies and education, and performance as research can address these challenges to find a way forward.
“Children are wholehearted, compassionate humans with an extraordinary capacity to make meaning of the world they live in. They are the cornerstone of our society’s future – the litmus test of our humanity,” says Nebe. “Yet we continue to fail our children.”
The conference and festival programme is made possible by a range of partners and funders: the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project; the Embassy of Sweden; the Swedish Arts Council; the Centre of Excellence in Human Development at the Wits School of Public Health; Business and Arts South Africa; Unga Klara; Assitej, Arts & Culture Trust, BUZ PR and Flow Communications.