THE PROJECT'S STORY
This incubation project was created out of a response to the lack of experience that theatre practitioners had in South Africa in seeing and creating meaningful, age appropriate indigenous theatre for the very young. As well as the immense need to create uniquely South African and African theatrical experiences for our young audiences on the African continent.
In 2013, Magnet Theatre for the first time ventured into theatre for Early Years (2 – 6 years old). With the support of DG Murray and ASSITEJ South Africa, Roberto Frabetti (from La Barracca Testoni Ragazzi in Bologna, Italy) came out to South Africa to run workshops for the trainees on the Magnet Theatre Full Time Training and Job Creation Programme. The production TREE/BOOM/UMTHI was the fruit of that meeting, and resulted in an overwhelmingly positive response. This response indicated a tangible need for a mostly neglected audience to have access to theatre. Therefore in 2015, Magnet Theatre once again initiated an Early Years Theatre training module, with the support of the Goethe-Institut South Africa and with input from Helios Theater in Germany.This became the seed for what would become the Early Years Incubator Project.
In 2015, Magnet Theatre was also fortunate to be awarded a Flagship grant from the National Arts Council for the development of a youth company with the specific intention of creating and touring new performance work for the under 7’s. Magnet Theatre recognized that theatre for the under 7’s was both a vital and important part of the psycho-social development of children as well as addressing the lack of high quality, creative, indigenous multilingual work for that age group in South Africa. There was also a need to reach children who were unable to have access to these performance experiences; as well as develop audiences for theatre in general in South Africa.
Research has shown that investing in performance for the early years is a long term investment in growing adult audiences for the industry. As a result of the Flagship grant and other initiatives, Magnet Theatre created 3 new works for children ranging from 0 – 7 years of age (Ekhaya, KNOCK! and Scoop:Kithchen Play for Carers and Babes) during 2015. These works were also created with the support of the Goethe-Institut, Helios Theater, Gabi Dan Droste and Anna Newall from Replay Theatre in Ireland with funding from UK/SA Seasons.
Helios Theater was once more invited to collaborate with Magnet Theatre in 2016 as the first and second partnerships were a great match: bringing together shared values in regard to theatre and relationships with audiences. Helios’s focus on non- narrative work and on materials links well with Magnet Theatre’s emphasis on the body and on image theatre. A partnership with the Goethe- Institut was also resumed for this project due to the shared vision of both organizations- to empower young people in the industry and to facilitate the growth of Early Years work, by providing an opportunity for new work to be created under the mentorship of experienced teachers and practitioners. Since this incubation model had been so successful for South African performers and theatre-makers, it was determined that the training should be offered to artists in other countries on the continent- further extending the impact of the work.
In 2018, Magnet Theatre was honoured to host another Early Years incubation project in partnership with the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg and their long term artistic collaborators from Helios Theater. It was an opportunity to further develop, expand and nurture this project’s objectives meaning that many more Early Years audiences would potentially be reached across the African continent.
The objectives of this project were aimed at: upskilling 17 young South African theatre makers in the creation of 4 new works for under seven year olds; upskilling 6 theatre makers from other parts of Africa in the Early years theatre making module, and creating a further 2 productions; establishing creative relationships for young theatre makers across the continent; and developing and performing 6 new high quality Early Years works at Magnet Theatre as part of a Mini Early Years festival. The project also culminated in a week long touring of the South African Early Years Works; reaching the poorest, least serviced parts of Cape Town communities: crèche’s, child care centres and preschools. This tour allowed for these already created works to reach a wider audience.
In order to achieve these objectives, the Early Years Incubator Project trained each of the participants to have a deeper understanding of the psychology of a very young audience. To learn effective methods to create a special environment that invites children to actively discover and explore; while uncovering techniques to sustain children’s interest and concentration. To develop an understanding behind the principals of Helios’s use of Material Theatre and Magnet Theatre’s use of Physical Theatre in order to create indigenous age appropriate African Theatre for Early Years audiences.