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VAREKAI IS POSITIVE ABOUT KZN (article first published : 2005-03-16)

The Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism recently hosted a forum on March 7, offering a networking opportunity for KZN artists. A number of organisations were represented incorporating both the performing and visual arts and forming what was arguably the largest body seen in recent years.

The fact that the forum was hosted by the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism gave the performing arts community in KwaZulu-Natal a very positive outlook for the future as well as an empowering feeling that has been missing for too many years. For the community to function as a whole, these networking meetings are needed consistently.

Unfortunately, the meeting went on for two and a half hours - longer than scheduled – and not everyone stayed to the end, thus missing the spirit of what was trying to be achieved and displaying a lack of support for the other artists. The networking meetings are created to bring the performing arts community together in a spirit of helping each other. For the arts community to expect the public to support them, a solid all-round support infrastructure is needed as a base.

An idea was presented to rotate the meetings to different venues on a regular basis. This will allow all parties involved to see just how everyone else is functioning. However, this was received with divided enthusiasm, arts practitioners citing distance and travel time as well as locations not having the necessary facilities. It is therefore important to find a venue suitable to both city and township dwellers which is equally accessible to one and all.

The main item everyone wanted to listen to was the presentation to be given by Varekai Productions, a New-York based theatre company shortly to move its base of operations to a new permanent home in Durban.

Varekai’s Artistic Director, Gary Adamsen, spoke about the company’s plans to bring Broadway and West End scale musicals and concert productions to Durban with an entirely South African staff, cast and crew. Varekai would also incorporate an outreach and education department which would include master classes by performing artists and designers and which will help in the development of local artists’ work.

He also confirmed Varekai’s commitment to furthering the talents of KZN theatre practitioners on a high level and assured the forum that it was not a “fly by night” organisation intending to milk the city and its talent before moving on.

Citing certain productions, Gary Adamsen spoke of touring companies coming through South Africa where the show was a hit and an almost immediate sell-out.

“However, once the show closes, that ticket revenue leaves the country with the production,” he explained. “By creating an entirely South African company that can build and launch this scale of production all of this money can stay where it is needed – in the KZN Community and South Africa.”

In making the move from Broadway to Durban, Gary Adamsen will be joined by Varekai’s Managing Director, former Durban actor and scriptwriter Allan J Hagan. Making up the third member of the team, Andrew McDougall (also a former Durban actor) will arrive from the UK to take up his position as Director of Outreach and Education. It is expected that Varekai will finally be settled in Durban in September with a premier production due in April, 2006.




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