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Students show their mettle at National Arts Festival

by Gerrit Bester

A crucial part of any live performance happens behind the scenes, both before a production is mounted and during its run. Since 2012, students from the Department of Performing Arts have ensured the smooth-running of this aspect of productions staged at the National Arts Festival (NAF). This year was no exception.

Sacrificing the better part of their university holidays (21 days!), a group of forty current Theatre Arts and Design (TAD) students, of which seven were alumni students, ensured that the lighting, sound, stage set-ups, etc. at fifteen of the 32 venues of this year’s festival met international standards.

The NAF returned to its home in Makhanda from June 23 to July 3 after a two-year long gap due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Hardus Koekemoer, lecturer at the Department of Performing Arts who was part of a group of staff members accompanying the students, says: "No money in the world can buy this kind of experience. Some of the students worked on sixty shows in a period of ten days, and that is no mean feat."

For some students, it was the first time during their studies that they worked alongside seasoned directors.

This year also saw the first time that the NAF involved students with impairments to garner technical expertise. Two postgraduate students with impairments formed part of this group.

They showed their mettle as a production manager at the Rhodes Theatre and as a lighting technician at the Settlers Monument, a jazz venue at the festival.

The experience also counts towards students’ Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), as part of which they were evaluated on how the venues looked prior to productions as well as the professionality of their work during the shows.

Experience is the mother of wisdom! Technical Arts and Design (TAD) students working at this year’s National Arts Festival in Makhanda.


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