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Wednesday May 23, 2012

Soweto celebrates new theatre

For decades, the performing arts in Soweto were restricted to community halls and open-air venues such as the 60-year-old Jabulani Amphitheatre and the colourful Mofolo Park Cultural Bowl.

The Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, Soweto, will be officially opened on Friday.

But this is set to change with the township's first formal playhouse, The Soweto Theatre, a state-of-the-art performance centre of international standard, which will be officially opened on Friday.

The R150 million theatre towers over the Jabulani Amphitheatre, to which it is almost linked by a huge white tent structure. From a distance, three bright yellow, red and blue cubes, flanked by elevated and curved sides that lead to its impressive glass fa├žade, capture the eye.

Its acting chief executive, Steven Sack, said expert opinions were sought to make the theatre something special.

"Our brief to architects was that we wanted a building that is iconic, photogenic and one that will become a symbol; and their design was inspired by the black box concept. We were told that if you want to get good acoustics, you begin with a shoe box shape," Sack said.

"With this design you do not need microphones to be heard from the stage. The three boxes are the main venue, which is a 420-seat auditorium, with an orchestra pit, and two smaller venues of 180 and 90 seats respectively, all of which are multifunctional and flexible to host various types of events."

He said the theatre would also become a art gallery.

"The theatre also gives beautiful views of Soweto from many sides. The Soweto Theatre is part of the broader Jabulani precinct development project, which will have shops, office parks, residential developments and many more as one of the city's projects based on the vision to turn townships into neighbourhoods," Sack said.

There are plans to refurbish the Jabulani Amphitheatre, which was built in 1952.

It played an important part in the country's history as the venue where Zindzi Mandela read out a defiant letter from her imprisoned father in 1985.

The Jabulani Heritage Project will be launched on the day of the Soweto Theatre's official opening.

The Star

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