Each year, local performers are honoured with Naledi Theatre Awards, and while Best Lead, Best Director and Best Production are all coveted accolades, the Awards also grant a few very special nods at performers and performances that have gone beyond the roar of an encore.
This year, there are four such Awards; The Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award, the Executive Director’s Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the World Impact Award. 2016 is the first time the Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award will be presented, while the World Impact Award made its debut last year when the award-winning War Horse, by The Handspring Puppet Company, walked away with the prestigious honours. The Executive Director’s Award and Lifetime Achievement Award have been presented in the past, and this year there will be two lifetime achievers receiving this auspicious accolade.
Executive Director of the Naledi Theatre Awards, Dawn Lindberg says anyone can motivate and nominate a qualifying person or company for any of the “specials” throughout the year. Then, in January, the Naledi board meets to discuss the nominations and choices are made unanimously. She says these Awards are an integral part of the Naledi’s as they highlight exceptional work on the local stage and screen.
The Executive Director’s Award was created to honour a company, producer or individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement and development of SA theatre through their vision and commitment. In 2014 actress and writer, Lizz Meiring walked away with the Award. “The Naledi Awards serve as a premier recognition of excellence of theatre productions performed in Gauteng,” says Meiring. “Being awarded the Executive Director’s Award meant so much to me. It is a respected, official stamp of approval from one’s peers and certainly helped in obtaining funding for further projects.”
Lindberg explains that the Life Time Achievement Awards are presented to theatre veterans and icons who have dedicated their lives to the SA theatre and music industries; “people who have left an indelible legacy through their passion and talent,” she says. This year there will be two Lifetime Achievement Award winners. Previous recipients of this quintessential honour include Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Fatima Dike, Mbongeni Ngema, Judy Page and Thandi Klassen.
“This year we have compiled a collage in the programme of all 66 of the previous Lifetime Award winners, and it was very emotional to see the faces of many who have since joined the great theatre in the sky; many of whom we have been privileged to work with over our own 50 years in the industry”
Honouring exceptional people is also the core premise of the newest “special” Naledi Theatre Award. “The Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award will commend an individual who has overcome great trauma or physical challenges to inspire and motivate fellow humans to follow and reach their dreams,” says Lindberg. In fact, Lindberg says this Award was created with this year’s recipient in mind.
Since last year, the World Impact Award has been presented to individual artists, productions or companies who have raised the bar of local theatre and performing arts internationally. “We launched the World Impact Award in 2015, after the phenomenal success of War Horse,” says Lindberg, “and the list of other proudly South African luminaries and artistes grows longer and stronger each year.”
Basil Jones, the Co-founder and Executive Producer of Handspring Puppet Company, says this recognition for their critically acclaimed production offered tremendous support. “Although so many South African actors and directors have distinguished themselves abroad, Handspring was the first recipient of the World Impact Award,” says Jones. “It was a great honour for us and we look forward to seeing who is given the award in the future.” This was not the first ‘special’ award the company has won, in 2012 Jones and co-founder Adrian Kohler won the Executive Directors Award too.
Jones says the Naledi Theatre Awards are an integral part of the South African arts and culture landscape, especially in the way they honour inspiration and artistry in the profession. “The whole industry is in their debt and deeply grateful for the way they have honoured members of the entertainment industry over the years,” Jones concludes.
But Lindberg says it’s the artists who deserve the gratitude and recognition. “Artistes and designers in theatre are traditionally underpaid and yet get onto the stage giving their blood and guts with passion and commitment,” she says. “To be recognized and applauded by their peers, producers and the media at the Naledi’s is a huge reward and stands them in good stead, as a benchmark in their CV’s for future work.”
The Naledi Awards are internationally recognized, and Lindberg says South African practitioners seeking to work in other countries often approach the Naledi’s board for endorsement.
And while every effort is made to ensure that deserving individuals are celebrated and awarded, Lindberg says financial restraints are making this more and more difficult each year. “Our overwhelming and sometimes soul-destroying challenge remains funding and sponsorship, not only for the Naledi’s but for the entire performing arts industry.”
“That is why we are extremely grateful to our current category sponsors (Distell, ROBE Lighting, Dreamsets, DWR Lighting Distribution, the South African State Theatre, and the Market Theatre) and to BASA and the Mzansi Golden Economy for the support funding,” says Lindberg. “Huge thanks also go out to our two ‘Arts Angels’, Carolyn Steyn and Percy Tucker, who have each sponsored a category from their own pockets.”
“Finally, we welcome our media partners, Kyk-Net and M-Net who are sponsoring the shooting and editing of the Awards for broadcast on several channels soon after the Awards,” she says.
Lindberg says this quote, that she picked up from Young Director’s Programme: Theatre in Transformation, sums up how she feels about the industry and the necessity for it in our country; “A country or a nation without its arts and culture is like a hollow drum that doesn’t make a sound”.
Tickets for the glittering event are available on Computicket at R350. Pensioner and student tickets are on sale for R200. Tickets include cocktails, entertainment and the chance to rub shoulders with the country’s top celebrities and performers.