We had a chat with two representatives from the Outreach Foundation to find out more about their upcoming Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival.
The Outreach Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. They work predominantly with young people living in the inner-city. Fostering a love of learning through the arts, the Outreach Foundation is a vital body of hard-working and dedicated practitioners, educators and counsellors.
Each year before the festival a team of facilitators go into inner-city schools to work with learners on a weekly basis. Facilitators from the Outreach Foundation’s Performing Arts Project, young artists working in the city and second-year Market Theatre Laboratory students make up this team. Learners from these schools then present their work at the Hillbrow Theatre at the Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival. This year's festival is presented as part of the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival.
"At school we only follow the textbooks, while at the theatre we follow our minds," - Isaro Cast Member, Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival 2013.
The Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary in September 2019. The festival has been made possible through the continued support of inner-city schools, their principals, parents and partner organisations. One of which is The City of Johannesburg, whom have supported the festival since its inception. Other funders include Department of Arts and Culture, Rand Merchant Bank, Ford Foundation and Bread for the World. In addition, the Market Theatre Laboratory have provided guidance, training and equipment for the past seven years.
The Outreach Foundation celebrate this milestone with a record number of 41 participating schools at this year's festival! Each school will perform an original work starring their most talented students.
"Gender and Sexuality is a complex part of being a teenager. It is vital that teachers, parents and young people courageously engage in these conversations," the Outreach Foundation says. "This theme will hopefully give us courage to explore the unhealthy silence around these topics that plagues our country. [We hope to] encourage learners and facilitators to engage this topic individually and in their communities long after the festival closes."
The challenge of the Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival 2019 is to encourage inter-generational discussions about gender and sexuality. Bringing these conversations into the theatre is one of the ways that the foundation aim to bridge boundaries.
"Sex is complicated and complex. Theatre is complex and complicated. Theatre can be naughty, it can be playful, you can be daring on stage and you can play around with different roles, personas and genders. Sex can be funny, undignified and ridiculous…and so can theatre. Both sex and theatre are exhilarating, dangerous, fun and risky," they argue.
The goal is ultimately to employ the arts as a powerful tool. Allowing young people to re-imagine themselves and the world they live in. By sharing their stories with their parents, peers and audiences, there is hope that they may find commonality and freedom, creating “allies” for those that have been made to feel “othered”.
You can expect a jam-packed line up at this year's festival. Over five days, the 41 schools will present their original productions. The concluding day of the festival will see the adjudicators present the top four finalists and awards to outstanding performers. The adjudication panel features the likes of Mpho Molepo, poet Khutjo Green and director and writer Napo Masheane.
"It is amazing how young people, given a chance, start to speak about who they are and where they come from," Masheane says.
Nine schools will present their works on stage per day. The festival kicks off on Friday, 30 August 2019 at 10:00 and runs until Saturday, 7 September 2019. Tickets cost only R15 per person for each show, so you really have no excuse not to attend! Contact [email protected] to reserve your tickets.
Visit the Outreach Foundation website for more information. Or, you can follow them on social media for event updates and more:
Facebook - facebook.com/OutreachFoundation
Twitter - twitter.com/OFHillbrow
Contact them on +27 (0)11 720 7011 or via email at [email protected]