A unique arts festival aimed at young people will be taking place in Cape Town later this month – and Sea Point resident Jon Keevy is looking forward to being a part of it.
The nineteenth ASSITEJ (International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People) World Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences is taking place in Africa for the first time. This comes after Cape Town won the right to host the festival in 2014.
The festival called Cradle of Creativity takes place in partnership with the South African National Arts Council, from Wednesday May 17 to Saturday May 27.
The venues for the festival include the Artscape Theatre, City Hall, Baxter Theatre, Vrygrond Cultural Hub and other venues across the city.
Mr Keevy, who graduated from UCT with a Master’s degree in playwriting, says he has been involved with writing and theatre-making for a number of years. He has also spent a number of years as a stage designer as well as producing his own work.
“I am very excited to be a part of the festival. I’ve worked with ASSITEJ for a number of years since my first play; we went on tour to Rwanda.”
He said in South Africa it was important to be involved in all aspects of theatre production.
It’s difficult in South Africa because you can’t just be a playwright or a director – you have to be a producer, designer as well. It is a small industry so there aren’t that many people working in it and there’s not a lot of money in it.
“You have to be an all-rounder. It is valuable but is also something that is draining because you want to be able to concentrate on one aspect.”
Mr Keevy added that writing has always been his greatest passion.
He said he had been involved with a number of ASSITEJ’s projects which involved creating new plays for young audiences among them a play he wrote and produced for the festivaltitled The Underground Library, which started out as a radio play he penned for an SAFM competition.
“I developed it further for ASSITEJ who were involved in a partnership with the Kennedy Centre in Washington.”
The ASSITEJ festival includes more than 60 productions from 85 countries. According to Mr Keevy, this is one of the most exciting things about the 10-day festival. “I’m probably more scared because there is so much work to do and there seems to be so little time.
“There are going to be works from all over the world, with a different way of seeing the world and different artistic styles, it is going to be so exciting.
There will be beautiful stuff from all over the world.
“One of the highlights of these types of festivals is meeting people from different backgrounds with different world views.
“It is good to know that you can share ideas with people who have dramatically different life experiences and share art.”
He added that he was also looking forward to the other South African productions. “My play is aimed at older kids; it is a sci-fi action show.”
Mr Keevy said the play is about a school girl called Khanya who, when she crosses paths with anti-government hackers, ends up in possession of a piece of a software that would be able to access any information. “It’s about the idea of how much information can be banned and regulated and is imagining a Johannesburg in the near future.
“Having a young black girl as the protagonist was important.”
He also said it was important for young people to be exposed to theatre and art in general. “One of the things that art teaches is empathy and you can see something from someone else’s perspective. I think that is a very important fundamental human quality and we struggle with that.”
Mr Keevy’s play will be directed by Cape Town-based artist Koleka Putuma
“I’ve been quite hands-off as the producer and writer and I’m leaving her to do her rehearsal process. I think that directors really need to have space to find their own way rather than be dictated to.”
The director of ASSITEJ Yvette Hardie, said the festival promised to be a unique experience.
Ms Hardie, who is a Muizenberg resident, said: “The festival is newly created in some part of the world every three years and has been going since 1965 when ASSITEJ was founded in France.
“The last ones have been in Adelaide, Australia; Copenhagen and Malmö, Sweden; and in Warsaw, Poland. The idea is for the international association to meet somewhere in the world to share their ideas and experiences about theatre for young audiences and to bring exciting and cutting edge work to new audiences each time. It is both a meeting of the association, ASSITEJ, and a festival for the general public.”
She added that Cape Town won the bid to host the festival in Poland in 2014. It is an exciting moment for Ms Hardie who has been involved with ASSITEJ since 2006.
Tickets for the festival are available from Computicket, starting at R40 a ticket for block bookings to R75 for individual tickets for adults.
The full programme for each day can be found on the website: www.assitej2017.org.za/conference