Artlooks & Artlines is a monthly column written by Ismail Mahomed, CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.
‘When you can imagine the change you want, you can work towards the change you want to bring,’ is the message that celebrated Hollywood actress and renowned social activist, Susan Sarandon, brought to artists during her whirlwind visit to the Market Theatre on Friday 4 August. Sarandon was accompanied by her nephew Kai, her niece Nia and sister-in-law Kanika Tomalin. The actress’s visit to the continent started in Kiryandongo, Uganda, to honour her late brother Terry Tomalin, the outdoor editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He died on 19 May after suffering a fatal heart attack while taking a lifeguard test with his son, Kai. In Uganda, Sarandon also stopped by Hope North, a foundation for which she is an advocate. The Foundation provides a safe space for victims of Uganda’s civil war. The celebrated actress, known for her social activism, is globally respected for combining her dramatic talents and personal convictions to speak out on many issues. At the 1993 Academy Awards ceremony, where she appeared as a presenter with Tim Robbins, she took the podium to create awareness for the plight of Haitian HIV-positive refugees. In 1999, she received the Amnesty International USA Media Spotlight Award for Leadership and the same year was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Welcoming her to the Market Theatre Foundation, I said to her in my brief address, ‘We are blessed, honoured and inspired by your visit to the Market Theatre. Our own institution has a 41-year legacy of being at the forefront of creating access to the arts and for being a voice for social justice.’ When she stopped at the Brett Goldin pillar at the entrance to the Brett Goldin Boardroom at Market Square, she did not hesitate to ask more about homophobic violence in South Africa and to hear about the young actor who was tragically murdered in April 2006, weeks before he was to travel to the UK to perform in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet. As word spread like wildfire on social media last week about Susan Sarandon’s visit to the Market Theatre, curiosity in the arts sector began to mount about the reason for her visit. The acclaimed actress and social activist’s visit was to endorse the Market Theatre’s partnership with Dramatic Need, a creative arts charity helping vulnerable children in South Africa and Rwanda to build hope and self-belief in the face of conflict, trauma and hardship. Sarandon will perform in Dramatic Needs’ annual fundraiser production, The Children’s Monologues, along with an all-star US cast that includes, amongst several others, Trevor Noah and Charlize Theron. The one-night production, directed by Danny Boyle, will be staged at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall on Monday 13 November.
The US premiere of The Children’s Monologues will feature an all-star cast performing groundbreaking stories of young children growing up in Africa, adapted for the stage by some of the world’s finest playwrights. In addition to a growing list of international talent, students from the Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute will perform music throughout the performance. A concurrent South African production with an all-star South African cast directed by James Ngcobo will be staged at the Market Theatre on the same day. Ngcobo secured the rights for The Children’s Monologues last year to coincide with the Market Theatre’s fortieth anniversary. This is the second year that Danny Boyle will direct The Children’s Monologues in New York and that James Ngcobo will direct the South African version of The Children’s Monologues on the same day. For the 2016 production at the Market Theatre, Ngcobo assembled the cream of South African theatre which included Jamie Bartlett, Robert Whitehead, Lesedi Job, Sonia Radebe, Masasa Mbangeni, Sello Maake kaNcube, Lebo Toko, Nokukhanya Dlamini, Gugu Shezi and Nomfundo Dlamini, with live music from Tshepo Mngoma. Ngcobo will announce the Market Theatre’s 2017 star-studded cast next month.
James Ngcobo’s 2017 production of The Children’s Monologues will bring alive the true stories of South African children as they try to come to terms with moments that have changed their lives forever. For some of these children, that means searching for answers in the aftermath of rape, death and injustice. For others, it is about trying to hold on to a memory that still inspires happiness. The South African production of The Children’s Monologues and Susan Sarandon’s visit to the Market Theatre were facilitated by theatre and television producer, Mfundi Vundla. He is a Patron of Dramatic Need and the producer of the South African production at the Market Theatre. By partnering with Dramatic Need and presenting the South African production on the same day, the Market Theatre’s artistic director, James Ngcobo plays a vital role in strengthening the Theatre’s links and shared vision with international spaces such as the Carnegie Hall.