Bonnievale artists become first participants in new theatre training course
Posted : 2015-07-28

Author: Lynne Rippenaar-Moses

​Bonnievale script writer Sheline Bothma (22) and director Jemina Kleinbooi (25) recently became the first artists to participate in a short training course for community theatre practitioners at the Drama Department of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU). The two attended the course at no cost after winning it as a prize during the recent Eden/Cape Winelands Community Theatre Festival in the category 'Exceptional Youth in Applied Theatre'.

The Festival is organised by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport of the Western Cape Government.

"The Department is committed to making a difference in the lives of youth through the programmes that we embark upon. Our approach is one of affording opportunities through networks, partnerships and training to youth in all facets of the arts. Through our drama development programme, as well as through collaborations and partnerships forged with role players in the arts, the Department was able to facilitate training opportunities for Sheline and Jemina at Stellenbosch University," says Ms Jane Moleleki, the Director: Arts, Culture and Language Services of this Western Cape department.

Sheline and Jemina were accommodated at the expense of the Faculty in an apartment a stone's throw from the Drama Department during the course which ran from 5 to 14 June.

"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us," says the two, who work for the Valleys and Mountains Development Foundation in Bonnievale.

"We felt that we needed to let everything that we were taught here, sink in and go back and apply it to our own drama group, because not everyone gets the opportunity to come to University and to study here. It's not about the trophies we have won or the money, it's about what we can learn here and how we can grow and the skills we can transfer to our community," says Sheline.

During their ten day stay at Stellenbosch, Sheline and Jemina were exposed to different genres of theatre like classical farce, physical theatre and puppetry, and were able to speak to the directors working in these different genres about how they approach their productions. During the day they attended workshops on the actor training approach developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner, as well as seminars on voice production, while in the evenings they attended productions and rehearsals and were able to learn from experienced directors, amongst them Marthinus Basson.  They also worked alongside theatre makers from other community groups who were also invited and were taught new techniques in Applied Theatre.

Sheline, who is a qualified full-time Early Childhood Development practitioner, has a passion for writing scripts and the performing arts. She joined the Foundation in 2011 and was initially responsible for its dance programme. However, since 2013, she has moved to the youth division of the Foundation called the Vangnet-Projek, sharing responsibility for a youth leadership programme of the Department of Social Development which is implemented by the Foundation. Her connection to Vangnet presented her with the opportunity to go on a script writing course and become the Foundation's script writer, penning productions like Alibi, which won the Best Script award and was the runner-up production at the Cape Winelands Drama Festival in 2013; and Afvlerk, which was performed at the Winelands Festival (winning Best Script here in 2015), the Zabalaza Festival, the KKNK Festival and the Suid-Oosterfees. Alibi was also performed at the Zabalaza Festival and Suid-Oosterfees – it won Best Script at the latter festival in 2014.

Jemina, who studied drama at Northlink College, joined the Foundation in 2013 to volunteer her skills to develop the Vangnet drama group. She was later appointed as the group's director, working with Sheline to direct Alibi. She won the award for Best Director of that production at the Suid-Oosterfees in 2015. Her colleagues at the Foundation describe her as a passionate and intelligent woman who along with Sheline was a major contributor to developing the community theatre programme and directing items performed at the community theatre evenings hosted by the Foundation.

Through Vangnet, Sheline and Jemina work with learners as well as out-of-school and unemployed youth between the ages of 14 and 21 to teach them acting skills. The same youth also perform in the theatre productions the two create.

However, their engagement with the youth goes beyond transferring acting skills, but also focuses on teaching them how to work within a group, improving their self-esteem and encouraging them to reach for their dreams.

Asked about why they chose specifically to grow their talents in the community theatre arena, Jemina says: "When I realised that I could depict issues in the community through community theatre and that I could show people in the community how a character in a play deals with the same issue and how they find a solution to a specific challenge, I realised I had found my passion".

"As a writer, I feel that I am not only talking for myself when I write a script, but that I am also speaking for other women. I do not write the things I write based on how I feel, but I write it to have a positive effect on our community. Many times women in our community go through challenges that are not exposed in our society. Through the chance I get to write, I am able to speak about those issues and help our community and our women heal by bringing those issues out into the open."

According to the short course organiser, Dr Rufus Swart of the SU Drama Department, the aim of "awarding the course as a prize was to offer quality training to the next generation of theatre makers".

"With this particular round, we were specifically looking at empowering the female voice in community theatre. Currently, it is still a male-dominated space where female theatre makers are often side-lined. However, this award was made not at the exclusion of the male voice, but to rather further strengthen the female voice in the theatre world," explains Swart.

Swart was one of the judges during the semi-finals of the Festival held at the Klein Libertas Theatre in 2014 and presented the prizes to Bothma and Kleinbooi in May this year at the finals, which were held at the Arena Theatre in Cape Town.

"Giving someone money is not as beneficial as developing their talent, sharing expertise and helping them to hone their skills. I believe it is important to train the leaders of the theatre world, and with the specialist knowledge concentrated in drama departments such as at Stellenbosch University, we can provide courses that are rich in content by exposing participants to different techniques applied in the performing arts.

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