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Arts Lab launch
Arts Lab
November 27, 2011

All is set for the launch of Arts Lab scheduled for Friday the 2nd of December 2011 at the Zimbabwe College of Music Great Hall and the 4th of December 2011 at Girls High School. The show cast has also been commissioned to present a performance at the Zimbabwe German Society World AIDS Day commemorations set to take place at the Joina City on the 14th floor on Saturday the 3rd of December. This will be a busy weekend for Arts Lab which will perform at the College of Music on Friday for a paying audience ($5) and also give a free show for families in and around Harare at the Girls High School on Sunday the 4th of the same weekend.

Whilst theatre lovers in Harare are used to come for a show and watch a full story plot, they will this time be in for a treat as they are set to see a variety of short performances inspired by life's experiences. From what we feel and see at a Doctor's appointment to the hilarious lives of children at play, clowns at work, an attempt at politics to our intimate and most private zone; our experiences in our bedrooms particularly in our beds. This is portrayed in script, mime and accompanied by vivid and abstract props and character attitudes and emotions.

What is Arts Lab?

Arts Lab is a groundbreaking project run by the Savanna Trust. Savanna Trust, a non-profit making organisation that uses theatre for social change. Founded in 2006 the organisation uses community theatre for development to engage grassroots communities in various socio-political and economic issues.

This particular project amongst many others that the Savannah Trust implements is a leadership and diversification programme for performance artists and institutions in Zimbabwe that provides training, a space to create, a platform to showcase, models for diversifying income and a framework to manage, promote and tour new work. In doing so the programme's objectives are double barrelled. They are firstly to build capacity in contemporary dance, visual physical theatre and arts management, through training which is directly linked to collaborative production and secondly to engage policy makers in Zimbabwe through the productions created under this programme: to use experience of all involved as the basis for analysis of challenges, needs, gaps in the contemporary dance and theatre sectors in Zimbabwe.

Funded by The British Council and The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, the project runs for eleven weeks and has recruited twenty six artists (11 females 15 males) with a mixed age group ranging from 20years to 46years. Under the directorship of Melissa Eveleigh (artistic head of the arts lab project), these artists produce splendid pieces of dance, theatre, poetry, mime all fused together to present a unique, vivid heart rending showcase that will leave the audience calling for more; probably a result of the diverse backgrounds from which they derive ranging from University theatre undergraduates, to musicians, dancers and trained theatre practitioners from various theatre associations, some of which include CHIPAWO, New Horizon Theatre, Spear Theatre, Theory X, Tumbuka, UMOJA, College of Music and their levels of professionalism are mirrored in the fact that some of them have performed for productions that have been cast at reputable platforms like Reps, Theatre in the Park, Harare International Festival of the Arts and the Zimbabwe International Film Festival.

During the build to this oncoming show, the cast held "sharing" platforms every Friday where they invited creative performing arts practitioners, directors, writers etc. to come and watch and assist with recommendations, insights, criticisms and various commentaries on what they would have seen and these are some of the sentiments of those who attended the Friday sharings over the past month:

"This is creating a new form of performance that we have not had here before in Zimbabwe. We are used to seeing the same kind of theatre time and time again - but this goes to another place, beyond the ordinary."
Daniel Maposa, Savannah Trust

"I saw myself in the piece about the bedroom. The personal and intimate was brought out into the stage, and this is wonderful."
- Ignatius Mabasa, British Council

"There is so much talent in this group, and you're clearly enjoying what you're doing, and if the performers enjoy the audience will enjoy. It's marvellous to see!"
- Walter Mparutsa

"The Zimbabwe arts scene needs this kind of initiative. We at ZITA and myself as a theatre director, will benefit. I can already see such a progression from the first week."
- Peter Churu, Zimbabwe Theatre Association

"The group has gelled, grown together, is listening to each other on stage more intensely."
- Rahim Solomon

"This is real social commentary, you are taking real issues and handling them with a sensitive and light touch, that allows us to laugh. And as Zimbabweans we need to laugh."
- Hannah Hove, DED

"The physicality is impressive. You express complex stories through the physical. If the text were to meet this it would be on another level."
Sunniva Berg, Norwegian female musician

"We are going further and deeper in our storytelling to talk about sensitive things."
Feedback from performing artists, Arts Lab

"If we are to have a successful performing arts academy in Zimbabwe, this (Arts Lab) is the tool"
- Walter Muparutsa

Over the past five weeks the general curriculum for these artists included basic principles like build, tension, conflict, rhythm, space, character through animal: observation and embodiment of nature, places and people. A creative task meant to apply understanding of the concepts was always given and this involved coming up with interesting scenes most of which had been observed at public places like the market place/shopping mall, parkade, garage, emergency taxi etc.

Also included in the curriculum is essentialised story telling thus taking the participants through a journey of elements that relate to melodrama, tragic chorus and culminating into undertaking of tasks that involve compressing famous films into 8 minutes performances in small designated space. Performances relating to HIV/AIDS are introduced and there is on-going rehearsal of selected work.

At the show scheduled for the 2nd of December 2011 Arts Lab as part of its project will showcase the performances and works of associated artists. Confirmed to be showcased are the works of renowned visual artists Calvin Chimutuwah.

The project will also execute community outreach programmes where they shall conduct a series of concurrent workshops (average once a week) with community groups in disadvantaged areas. This shall be made possible by collaborating with CHIPAWO and DTZ's outreach programme already in place. Selected pieces will tour through Harare's communities.

Currently the city is abuzz with this new oncoming theatre bomb about to explode over the weekend with colourful posters and banners all over town. People cannot wait to see beds set all over a floor at Joina City and entertainment lovers cannot wait to see the likes of renowned female guitarist Edith WeUtonga, musician and actor John Pfumojena, Kidznet TV icon Tinevimbo Chimbetete, renowned choreography Gilbert Douglas just to mention a few all in one cast. This is surely a show NEVER to be missed.

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