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STATE THEATRE PLANS (article first published : 2005-06-28)

As the South African State Theatre in Pretoria gets closer to its 25th anniversary, it is gearing up for exciting times - with a multi-million rand mini facelift and a string of hot theatrical productions on the cards.

On June 1, 2005, the State Theatre was declared a cultural institution which signalled a dazzling new phase for this Pretoria landmark. Michel Lovegrove, CEO of the State Theatre, says the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) had given the complex a clean bill of health and had invested heavily in upgrading all facets. Just on R13-million is for capital works, from national government's budget to playhouses.

"We are in very good shape and building up our audiences," says Lovegrove. “And, thanks to a grant for refurbishment from DAC and a substantial amount from the Gauteng Public Works Department, we are creating a world-class complex.”

The famous Rendezvous Theatre, in the B1 basement parking area, has undergone a dramatic revamp, with new seating, new carpeting, a complete makeover in the foyer. There is now room in the theatre for wheelchairs. It will be re-launched in June with due celebration and a specially conceived show featuring some of South Africa's finest talent.

The Drama Theatre has been re-carpeted and the former Pact storage facility at Kilnerton, still a costume store, is being renovated at a cost of R1-million.

The Gauteng funding has been spent on installing disabled access for the whole building and fly bars in the main theatre has been upgraded. This is in addition to the installation of R2-5-million in sound equipment, donated by the Japanese government.

Good times ahead are predicated. The Opera is almost booked out for 2006 and Michael Lovegrove says audiences will be enchanted by the variety of exciting fare, including big musicals, lined-up. On the production front, Aubrey Sekhabi, the theatre's artistic director, said the highly successful 52 Seasons programme, with its mentoring system, will continue.

Funded in part by the National Arts Council and the National Lottery, 52 Seasons had enjoyed a number of successes," says Sekhabi of the programme. These included Paul Grootboom's controversial Cards, Ambi Sistas from Galeshewe, Kimberley, and the Arts Ensemble Ladies in Jazz.

Among the impressive productions lined-up over the ensuing months is Opera Africa’s Rigoletto, directed by Steven Stead, which runs in the Opera from June 30.

More information from Peer Feldman on 011 804 1485 or e-mail editor@swacs.co.za




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