POPArt Theatre Moves On To Bigger And Better Things


We all know POPArt Theatre as the rough and ready independent hub of live performance situated in the heart of the Maboneng Precinct. Having brought Joburg audiences all sorts of experimental, wacky work over the last nine years, POPArt has been a beacon for young and upcoming performers, directors and theatre oddballs. However, it is now time to say goodbye. But, not for good! POPArt has big plans ahead (once we are all out of quarantine, of course). We had a quick chat (over email), with POPArt’s co-founder, Hayleigh Evans, about where they’ve been and where they’re headed. Read on to find out how you can bid adieu to POPArt as we know it and welcome them into a new era of making. 

The End Of An Era

POPArt Theatre officially announced that they will be closing shop at their venue in Maboneng on Friday, 20 March 2020. After nine years of collaborative, cutting-edge theatre making and producing, they are moving on to bigger and better things. While the team do not have a confirmed new location for the theatre, they will remain open as a business with a suite of exciting projects in the pipeline. However, we have been promised that this is not the end of POPArt, as they will continue to work in partnership with the Centre For the Less Good Idea once their programme resumes, as well as various other makers and shakers.

The POPArt team had originally planned one final hooray at their Maboneng home, but as COVID-19 has taken over the scene, they have been forced to come up with another plan. Cue live streaming! As the arts community faces new extensive health and safety regulations, many artists and organisations have turned to social media platforms to offer their work to those in isolation. POPArt will similarly be looking for means to invite their faithful audiences to share their stories and to say goodbye to the original venue.

Reflections On POPArt Past And Present

Speaking to Hayleigh Evans, POPArt’s co-founder and one of the theatre industry’s busiest performers, teachers and producers, we found out a little more about POPArt’s history and what we can expect for its future:

When you first opened POPArt, what were your goals and/or expectations? Have you exceeded what you originally set out to do?

Absolutely. We launched the space really quickly and with the blind confidence of youth. We had more of an intention than a concrete plan – which actually worked out extremely well for us. It allowed for more artists from the performing arts community to become part of the vision of the space and ultimately made POPArt a key part of the theatre landscape in Johannesburg during this decade. Our goal was to provide a home for graduate performing artists trying to find their way into the industry, and our first key to that was providing a space. The rest of the shape of this has been informed by a great many interactions along the way. As is our next step!

What have been some of your key highlights over the last nine years at POPArt?

It’s hard to say. It still fills us with joy whenever the theatre is full and productions get the recognition they deserve. Watching artist’s careers grow from the space has been an incredible thing to track, too. Then, there’s the highlight of personal development: I honestly believe that consuming well curated theatre and being given insight into a multitude of available perspectives can have a huge and positive impact on the way that you move through the world as an individual and I am most grateful to have been personally affected by the work we staged. Then there was also that time that Trevor Noah popped in to do a quick set of comedy!

Why the move out of Maboneng? And, will we be seeing POPArt again in the near future? If so, where?

We feel that, after nine years in this space, we need to move to a space that can accommodate for a growing vision and a growing audience. There are many projects we would like to see come to fruition, as well as many initiatives that we would like to support which we currently aren’t able to do from our space. We have not yet settled on a space for the new theatre – though there are interesting discussions afoot. We are looking for a space that will offer a similar dynamic urban environment, and so we continue to look for a space in the city.

How do you intend to continue supporting student artists and young theatre makers at your new venue/ in new business ventures?

Even while we do not have the theatre, our very strong partnership with the Market Theatre Lab will continue. We will continue to offer training at institutions, and as pop ups, for professional performing artists as a more decentralised performing arts centre. Our key interest is growing the skill of producing for theatre among younger theatre makers in the industry and will be launching an in-depth part time course at the Lab later in the year. We will also be keeping a digital proposal platform open on our website for artists to propose work that they would need assistance in producing at other venues that we are already connected to.

Will you be keeping some of our favourite POPArt features running, for example Naked Girls Reading, Storytellers Series, Dating in the Dark and Live Improv? 

Absolutely, we will be doing our favourite formats as event “POPUps” in alternative venues – as and when we are able to once more. Obviously, the world has and will continue to shift and we, as artists, will be responsive for that. As such, we have nothing planned or confirmed right now, but have already begun experimenting with things like ZoomProv (improv on Zoom) which is thoroughly entertaining, but also want to see how our art and practice can be of service to our current climate before jumping everything online.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about the lineup for POPArt’s farewell event, “Story Seance”, and how audiences can access it via live streaming?

Well, we had wanted to conduct the “Story Seance” as an online event – however, with a lockdown in place during this time, we will not be able to broadcast from the Theatre. As the event is about the close of the space itself, it doesn’t feel congruous to continue to host the event without incorporating the space in any way… so we will wait and see if any kind of broadcast will make sense as things develop. In the meantime, we are encouraging our community to share their POPArt stories online via video and other media – tagging POPArt – so we can build an archive of stories for the meanwhile. We will also be creating a facility on our website where you can share your POPArt story.

POPArt

For More Information

If you would like to show your support to POPArt in its final days at the Maboneng Precinct or in preparation for its future, you can donate funds via their website.

Stay engaged with POPArt via their social media channels:

Facebook – www.facebook.com/POPArtjhb

Twitter – twitter.com/POPArtJHB

Instagram – instagram.com/POPArtJHB

Alternatively, contact them on +27 83 245 1040 or popartjhb@gmail.com.

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