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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

CATALINA THEATRE CLOSES DOORS (article first published : 2008-04-21)

After staging some hundred productions over five years, the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf will close its doors at the end of the month.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the closure of the Catalina Theatre. It has been five years and a couple of months and was great fun while it lasted,” says Catalina Theatre boss, Themi Venturas.

“Despite every effort made by myself and the board of TheatreBIZ, we are unable to convince Ithala, our landlord, to support the arts and help us to keep the venue open. Several appeals were made to Ithala management to give us more time to resolve the impasse but to no avail. They have dug in their heels and are set to replace the theatre with another tenant. Legally, they have every legal right to evict us, but it seems that they have been short-sighted, and in my opinion unsympathetic in the long run. Initially they allowed us a moratorium on our rental to enable us to fund-raise – but we all know that the fund-raising wheels are incredibly slow and unreliable in SA,” explains Venturas.

“Despite urgent appeals to the Ethekwini Municipality, and the Dept of Arts, Culture and Tourism, we have not been able to raise sufficient funds to make this all go away. Certainly not fast enough to satisfy our landlord,” says Venturas.

The Catalina is the only independent Durban venue which has consistently staged new, innovative theatre productions – particularly providing a platform for our region’s Black, Coloured and Indian theatre-makers to create new work. It has also staged the annual Musho! Festival - the city’s only spoken word theatre festival to encourage new scripts and performances. It staged affordable children’s productions every holiday encouraging a new generation of theatre-goers, and since opening, has run the successful Catalina mentorship programme for young aspirant theatre-practitioners.

With the closing of the Catalina doors, the city is losing a valuable resource and theatre-makers are losing an indispensable platform to showcase their work.

It is particularly disappointing that Ithala set themselves up as a financial institution to assist artists and previously-disadvantaged small businesses. But in this instance their vision does not extend to offering hands-on financial support to the city’s one indie theatre which actually does deliver quality professional productions which speaks to a New South Africa.

“So, the theatre community has been let down once again. In the city where the so called 'fun never sets', the sun is setting on another theatre venue,” concludes Venturas.

More information from Publicity Matters on 083 326 3234.




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