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PLAYHOUSE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR (article first published : 2003-12-20)

Eleven days after the Playhouse Company appointed Durban singer Linda Bhukosini to the new post of artistic director, a questionnaire from The Mercury relating to the needs for, and responsibilities of, this position have been answered.

The council of the Playhouse - a complex that has become little more than a venue for hire - has now formally announced the December 1 appointment of Bukhosini, wife of the KZNPO's Bongani Tembe. Bhukosini will now work in tandem with the arts body's managing director, Prof Caesar Ndlovu, and a 10-member council. The appointment follows nearly a week of the Playhouse Company being tight-lipped on the matter. This followed the postponement of a media function to announce the new incumbent and the leaking of an unapproved press release to a local website (artsmart.co.za)

Bukhosini, approached for comment, preferred to have the council answer questions about her post and other matters relating to it. Mina Lesoma, chairperson of the council, apologised for the delay in answering The Mercury's questions and submitted the following response to the questionnaire.

THE WAY MANY SEE IT, THE PLAYHOUSE IS SIMPLY A VENUE FOR HIRE THESE DAYS. BEARING THIS IN MIND, SOME FEEL EVEN HAVING A COUNCIL APPEARS TO BE AN UNNECESSARY EXTRAVAGANCE. SO WHAT, EXACTLY, IS THE COUNCIL'S FUNCTION NOWADAYS? "The Playhouse, like all other performing arts institutions in the country - for example, the Spoornet State Theatre; Pacofs - has a council that was appointed by the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Dr Ben Ngubane; according to the gazetted provisions of the Cultural Institutions Act. Some of the functions of the council include, but are not limited to, formulating policy and appointing such persons as it considers necessary to perform the functions of the declared institution. The council has many responsibilities, among which is to ensure the organisation operates on a sound financial basis and maintains good corporate governance practices."

HOW OFTEN DOES THE COUNCIL SIT, WHAT SORT OF THINGS DOES IT DISCUSS AND HOW MANY MEMBERS SIT ON IT? ALSO, DO BOARD MEMBERS GET PAID OR RECEIVE OTHER REMUNERATION? "The council has 10 members, consisting of people of highest integrity, including business and community leaders, a judge of the Supreme Court, an arts administrator, a member of the Exco of eThekwini Municipality, among others. It concerns itself, primarily, with issues outlined above. It meets at least three times a year, but since the council is relatively new, it has had to meet more often than that. The council is a non-executive one. It is not paid, but receives a small honorarium."

WHAT IS THE THINKING BEHIND THE CREATION OF THIS NEW POSITION OF ARTISTIC DIRECTOR? "It was not created by this new council. There has always been a director at The Playhouse, responsible for artistic matters of the company. Other institutions - for example, The State Theatre - have a similar position in fulfilling this role. When this council started it was informed by the previous administrator of the Playhouse Company, Mr Rodney Mthethwa, that he had had discussions with the department of Arts and Culture and that one of the main primary tasks of the council was to appoint the artistic director. In addition to this, the current council also applied its mind on this issue and decided, unanimously, that an artistic director should be appointed."

WHAT, EXACTLY, WILL THE NEW POSITION ENTAIL AND HOW WILL THE ARTS AND ARTISTS IN THIS CITY AND PROVINCE BENEFIT FROM IT? "The artistic director has a clearly defined job description, the main function being to manage the planning, co-ordination and implementation of the company's artistic programmes, initiated by this company, and those presented by outside hirers. The artistic director is responsible for producing a balanced artistic programme that represents the artistic integrity of all South Africa's cultural and artistic heritage. The arts director is also required to manage the co-ordination and implementation of a comprehensive arts education and development programme. The Playhouse Company is committed to working with other arts organisations and arts practitioners in the overall promotion and presentation of vibrant artistic activities, which benefit the arts community and arts lovers in KZN and the eThekwini Municipality."

WHAT IS THE LONG-TERM VISION FOR THE PLAYHOUSE COMPANY THESE DAYS IN OTHER WORDS, IS THERE A MODIFIED MISSION STATEMENT NOW THAT THE PLAYHOUSE IS ESSENTIALLY A VENUES-FOR-HIRE SET-UP? "The vision and objectives of the Playhouse Company have not changed. The Playhouse cannot just be a venue for hire. The Playhouse Company must be a centre for artistic excellence in our region, that should inject cultural vibrancy and make a meaningful impact in the lives of the various communities it serves. Of course, the budgetary limitations pose a huge challenge in serving the wide interest of various communities. Hence, a need for a healthy balance between internally initiated artistic programmes, productions presented in association with other arts entities and productions presented solely by outside hirers."

WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED UNDER PROF NDLOVU'S LEADERSHIP AT THE PLAYHOUSE? AND ARE THERE ANY THINGS HE HAS SET IN PLACE WHICH HAVE STILL TO REACH FRUITION AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE PURSUED BY THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR? "The Playhouse has always been committed to the development of South African talent and this trend will be continued. The promotion of artistic excellence in drama, music and dance, in a manner that adheres to equitable distribution of the company's resources, is central to how the council wishes to engage this company's artistic activities."

WHAT IS THE COST OF KEEPING THE PLAYHOUSE RUNNING EACH YEAR AND HOW MUCH STAFF REMAINS THERE ON A FULLTIME AND PART-TIME BASIS? The Playhouse Company gets a total grant of R15million from the national department of Arts and Culture. The eThekwini Municipality grant totals about R2million. There are also other fund-raising endeavours."




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