ARTS TOWN RIBEEK VALLEY and ROYAL ARTS TOWN AMPHITHEATRE (RATA)
Eighty kilometres from Cape Town lies the Riebeek Valley where, in recent years, agritourism started to experience some competition from the visual arts. As more artists moved into the area it became a fine arts destination of choice due also to the annual Solo Studios Intimate Art Encounters which invites the public to witness the creative processes of drawing, painting, sculpture and conceptual art. Klaus Piprek, director of Solo Studios, had a vision for the area to become recognised as a year-round cultural tourism destination, and the concept of Arts Town Riebeek Valley was born. Under this umbrella, THE OLIVE BRANCH PROJECT a community performing arts initiative which seeks to bridge divides, combat racism and promote inclusiveness through the performing arts and the ROYAL ARTS TOWN AMPHITHEATRE (RATA) were developed under the leadership of Mark Graham-Wilson.
Opened in response to the Covid-19 lockdown, RATA recently concluded its first Summer Theatre Season of ten small cast productions which provided work for theatre practitioners and opportunities for audiences of up to one hundred to gather safely in the open air. Eight unemployed community members went through a skills transference programme under Namhla Kalipa-Tunyiswa which prepared them to take on all Stage Management, Lighting, Sound and AV duties at the venue. The season opened in November 2020 with the first performances of Clare Stopford’s COVID MOONS. RATA’s second Summer Theatre Season is currently being curated and will open in October 2021
After training and practicing as a performer for twelve years, Clare made the transition to directing as Resident Director at the Market Theatre under the mentorship of Barney Simon. Her early productions were of her own plays with a feminist slant. In 1995 she became the Market’s Associate Artistic Director and went on to direct award-winning productions of modern classics such as Kafka Dances and Scenes from an Execution. In the last sixteen years she has primarily directed new South African plays with Mike van Graan’s Green Man Flashing being the most notable success. Returning to Cape Town as a senior lecturer in the Drama Department at UCT, Clare’s love for theatre writing was reignited. In 2018 she re-wrote her 80’s play Last Trek to suit fourteen female students and renamed it Bands of Women. In 2016 she facilitated the globally acclaimed The Fall for the Baxter Theatre. Writing Covid Moons came out of a need to cheer herself up and make sense of her own isolation during the early days of the first lockdown.
Producer / Set and Lighting Design
A theatre and television director, producer, writer and educator, Mark has directed numerous productions for South African managements and developed original work through his theatre companies Opdrag Productions (with Jana Cilliers) and Tripletake Productions (with Michael Maxwell and Dorothy Ann Gould). His most recent production was Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking for the Market and Baxter Theatres. His television credits include Artistic Director of Generations, Head Writer of Scandal!, story liner on Binnelanders and director on Isidingo. Involvement with skills transference and development has seen Mark work with actors, both aspiring and professional, through The Olive Branch Project, The Actors Centre, Tripletake Studio, SA Community Theatre, City Varsity, University of Stellenbosch and Tshwane University of Technology. He runs performance classes as well as television writing programmes and has trained writers, actors and directors for tv productions both locally and in Africa. Mark has received more than twenty theatre and television directing and writing award nominations (Vita, Fleur du Cap, Naledi, Kanna, Avanti, SAFTA, Rose of Montroux) of which he has won several. He is also the recipient of a citation for exceptional teaching, awarded to one lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch each year.
Celeste is a Theatre and Performance graduate of UCT, where she specialised in acting and also acquired a major in Gender Studies. When she was 11, she was in the 2007 production of Festen directed by Heinrich Reisenhofer which travelled across the country to various festivals. During her studies, she worked on Diepe Grond, adapted by Kanya Viljoen, Mandla Mbothwe’s production In His Quest and Lwanda Sindaphi’s Esiseleni Sedini. In her final year she was directed by Clare Stopford in Lear’s Daughters and finished her degree in 2019 with Moeders en Dogters, directed by Lee-ann van Rooi. During this time, Celeste also worked as a stage manager for theatre, a production assistant for films, a voice artist and performed at Stardust Theatrical Diner. Over the past year she has started working in the film industry, including a lead role in the Mnet feature films Home Affairs: A Christmas Tale and Home Affairs: A Love Story. She also starred in an episode of SABC’s Die Sentrum, Hilton Pelser’s short film Thnx for last Nyt and recently finished shooting a Silwerskerm short film.
Born and bred in Zimbabwe, Thulani performed in a number of local film and theatre productions, working for organisations like the British Council, The Harare International Festival of the Arts, The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and UNICEF. This led to the World Championships of Performing Arts in 2017, where he won a semi-final placement, five medals and a scholarship to the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. His passion for African performing arts and storytelling kept him rooted in the continent and he chose to study at AFDA Cape Town, where he graduated on the Dean’s List, with a BA in Live Performance and an award for Best Undergraduate Performance in Film. While having successfully started a career in the Cape Town arts industry, he plans on spreading the passion, creativity and originality that all African performers share across the globe.
Homeless Busker Musician
Charl is currently a music teacher at Sunlands Primary School. He started playing the saxophone at high school and developed a further love for the instrument while at Stellenbosch University. He studied saxophone with Mr Darryl Walters and his first instrument, the oboe, under Loanna Matel.