A concerned arts journalist leaned over to me once and whispered, “Theatre needs you.” I agreed with him; it needs all of us. With diverse stories, an array of platforms and presentation styles, one is often spoilt for choice when it comes to theatre productions in Cape Town, but one is not often sure which choice will deserve a standing ovation. Enter the big, beautiful Fugard, a building and an institution that inspires awe and attendance in equal measures.
Last season’s show Broken Glass sold out, new seats were put in, and the theatre’s overall performance was predetermined by shows with big names. It worked. Which is good, because The Fugard, like any arts centre, has had its share of ups and downs – the most recent down nearly drowning it.
After some difficult times last year with the resident company at the time, Daniel Galloway was appointed as general manager for his go-getting attitude. We got a few minutes with the man and asked him about where The Fugard is going under his supervision.
Interview with Daniel Galloway, general manager, the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town
CCT: What would you say is the Fugard’s main impetus in the arts in Cape Town City Centre and in SA on the whole – artistic, educational, integrated, or other?
Daniel: The Fugard Theatre is in a unique position – not just geographically being located in the heart of District Six – but also in manner of the type of work we are able to present. Fugard is an iconic name and attracts exceptional attention from seasoned and well-known local and international theatre and film practitioners. We are, with the tremendous backing of our founding producer, Mr Eric Abraham, able to offer theatre at certain times of the year which is not usually seen on South African stages. In these early phases of the development of The Fugard, it is vital for us to expand our database and to develop a constituency which will hold us and ultimately support all the work which we present in our building. We are striving to present the best in local and international productions and events.
CCT: How do you feel about the Fugard’s penetration of public consciousness since its inception?
Daniel: It is a slow building process – we are not kidding ourselves when it comes to the development and recognition of a new theatre in Cape Town and South Africa; there is a lot of hard work ahead for us. Having said that, the public response to our productions since the beginning of this year has been tremendous. There is obviously a hunger from a South African public to engage with top quality, entertaining theatre which makes for a great night out in the City.
CCT: Turnout at shows has been encouraging in the last few months. What do you think prompted this?
Daniel: Yes, it has been. Word of mouth is the best form of publicity without a doubt. Having a star-studded cast draws people in initially and then word of mouth ensures sustained box office success for the show throughout its run. We, of course, try to be as proactive as possible when it comes to marketing and publicity and we have a great team behind the scenes who do what they can to get the word out. (Facebook, website, Twitter. )
CCT : The Fugard falls in The Fringe. How does it see itself participating in the project?
Daniel: The Fringe project is a vital part to the rejuvenation and revitalisation of this beautiful part of our City. If we can play our part by bringing people, financial support and patrons of all sorts into the area, then I believe it would add even further to an already blossoming project.
CCT: What future plans does the Fugard hold for Cape Town audiences?
Daniel: All sorts of exciting things. We are so pleased and proud to have Athol with us at the moment rehearsing and directing his latest play, which had its world premiere at the Fugard Theatre (The Bird Watchers on 12 May 2011). The production stars Sean Taylor, Dorothy Ann Gould and Guy de Lancey. The run is scheduled to complete on 4 June 2011. Shows are nightly at 19h30 with an additional 15h00 matinee on the Saturdays.
We also have wonderful theatre lined up for the rest of the year and recently we announced the launch of the Fugard Theatre Bioscope and the Fugard Theatre Studio. The Bioscope will offer high definition, surround sound cinema for our themed film seasons and the Fugard Theatre Studio will offer a smaller, intimate 150-seater performance space for all sorts of exciting events.
Moving into the future, it seems my heartfelt pen friend was 100% correct back there. The Fugard needs you. It needs you to attend, to tweet, and to constructively criticise. The Fugard knows that the only way self-respecting theatre will survive in South Africa is through institutions that takes its productions and its audiences seriously.
Read a review of the latest showThe Bird Watchers, on at the Fugard until 4 June 2011. Facebook? Indeed, the Fugard has a face.