Darryl Spijkers, HHDS chairman
On March 18, following a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, the Playhouse Theatre was closed due to the requirements for social distancing, followed by the implementation of lockdown regulations that have changed life in a serious way for many of you – and the theatre.
Bolander editor, Carolyn Frost, summed it up best when she said, “I cannot wait to come again, gather in the lobby, with that wonderful sense of anticipation before being ushered to our seats for a memorable performance. May that time be sooner rather than later.”
Our society was formed in 1947, and in our 73 years this has been the longest period that the society has been inactive and that our theatre has been closed with no shows, dance classes or social events taking place.
Our current five shows have been postponed, our 2020 children’s show slot cancelled and all our hires are frozen, awaiting news on when we can re-open.
We are also aware of the fact that once the lockdown ends, we are likely to face new challenges as social distancing remains part of the new normal. We are not alone in this challenge – theatres around the world are in a similar position – but The Playhouse is extra special to those of us who live in Somerset West.
The Playhouse building is managed by the Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society (HHDS), who are a group of volunteers. As an NPO, there is no remuneration for any committee members, cast or crew of productions. Profits from the shows are ploughed into improvements and maintenance of our theatre facility.
These details are made available at our AGM, that is open to the public, and details are available for perusal on request. There are very few community playhouses left in South Africa, which means that people of all ages in other towns have very little access to the stage, except for when they are prepared to pay for it through private tuition.
Our society puts on an average of four shows a year. We also hire our space to local drama schools, dance studios, schools, bands and professionals.
On average we have about 400 different people on our stage in one year. This amounts to about 30 000 locals that have volunteered since we began. They will speak of fond memories of friendship, teamwork and many valuable lessons learned.
Some of them have gone on to become professional performers, and others have moved away or become busy with their lives, always coming back to support where they can.
This is what makes our theatre unique – it is a playground for the talented and a spotlight for the dreamers.
Over and above this, the Playhouse has always been a firm believer in the fact that charity starts at home, and so we have used our bigger shows to generate funds for donations to local organisations such as Helderberg Hospice, Masekela, the Animal Welfare, Street People’s Feeding Group, Somerset West Night Shelter, Anna Foundation, Themba Training, Single Parents Helping Hands, Rotary Club Helderberg, Rotary Club Strand, Aanhouwen, Heartlands, Hottentots Holland High School, Livewell, Imibala, and Helderberg Society for the Aged.
We are currently taking suggestions for a R10 000 donation we need to make from our 2019 profit. It warms my heart to report to you that during this time we are housing 12 nurses and administrative support staff from the Helderberg Society for the Aged in the Green Room, as they are unable to travel back to their homes, and to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
We do this gladly, recognising how important it is that we support each other where we can.
In order to protect the aged in society, we must all do what we can to help stop the spread of the virus.
I will never forget how special it was in our 2014 production of Annie that the youngest cast member was seven years old, and the oldest one, the character of President Roosevelt, was 83.
The sense of community and the learning that happens in such an environment is priceless.
Given our great social presence and what we do and stand for, it is with great energy that we pursue our quest to survive this storm and keep The Playhouse open.
Some of our patrons have suggested that we make our productions available digitally through download or livestream. This is a great idea, and we have had positive responses from the rights-holders of two plays that we would like to bring to you.
The Virtual Performance rights, however, come with very strict conditions, which would mean upgrading our website. We would also need to consider the cost of the videography.
We have launched a social media campaign and are releasing cover versions of songs from our past shows under the banner: Makeshift Musical Memories. We will also be calling on primary and high school pupils to produce homemade “one-man” shows in the place of the annual Parel Vallei Playhouse Drama Festival.
So, how can you help? I hereby call upon our casts, crews, front of house workers, patrons, friends and supporters of the arts to get behind your local theatre, and donate, no matter how small or big the amount.
The Playhouse needs to keep its monthly running costs covered, and we have had no income for the past two months (and need to keep the lights on, the building maintained and the grounds tidy each month).
This seems likely to continue for the next few months, and so we have cut our expenses right down and have begun planning on preparing the theatre for new regulations.
We are hoping to raise R50 000 to keep us going during this dark time, but we are not asking for any hand-outs – we have some fun options for making donations to the Playhouse, so that you get something in return and have something to look forward to upon your return to our beloved theatre.
We have a fundraiser coming up for two nights only, called The Musical Songbook, and a date will be confirmed soon, and you can book your tickets now. This family music show includes the Shiraz band, Sume’s dance Studio, BeGraceful Dance Studio, Dylan Janse van Rensberg, Angie Mitchell, Jarred Pitout, Nicoline Murray, Jon-Paul Ruschenbaum and more. Tickets are R150, at email@example.com
We will also be launching a BackaBuddy campaign where we are offering options for you to donate.
You can buy a cup of coffee for R100 and get your Playhouse mug and Rustic Roast coffee when the Playhouse reopens;
You can secure two VIP seats for the opening night of The Sound of Music for R500;
You can name one of the Playhouse Theatre seats with your family, company, school or your name for R1 000; or
Donate any amount.
The Musical Songbook, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Slice of Saturday Night, People Are Living There, Alice in Wonderland and The Sound of Music are all cast.
When we do open, come in and get involved on or off the stage or volunteer to work front of house.
the-show-must-go-on, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.