Interview: Faeron Wheeler (F Creations) and Sue Diepeveen (The Drama Factory), talk about the August 2022, launch of the Women’s Month Festival at The Drama Factory and their joy of providing a platform and celebrating good work

August is Women’s Month, in In South Africa. August 9 is a public holiday and has been designated as Women’s Day. Sue Diepeveen – owner and operator of the Drama Factory in the Strand- and Faeron Wheeler- who heads up F Creations- a theatre production company in Cape Town – are collaborating- with the Women’s Month Festival at The Drama Factory. The inaugural festival is on August 16-21, 2022 and includes award winning plays, music, comedy and a panel discussion. Throughout the pandemic and the lockdowns, Diepeveen and Wheeler, continued to create, produce and stage theatre. They are Renaissance Warrior Theatre Women. The maiden Women’s Month festival’s theme: Your Voice, Your Stage. Note that that there is no venue hire fee, for this festival. The creatives are not paying to hire the theatre, during the festival and “technical setup” is also being provided– at no charge. Sue Diepeveen and Faeron Wheeler, in conversation with TheCapeRobyn- about their unbridled joy – providing a platform for the arts and celebrating live performance.

The genesis of the Women’s Month Festival at The Drama Factory

How did this inaugural Women’s Month Festival at The Drama Factory come about?

Faeron Wheeler: “This is something that I’ve been kicking about for a few years now. I kept thinking or saying that we should do a mini festival for Women’s Month since a lot of the productions that Sue and I work on are largely focused on women. This year, I put the notion to Sue right in the beginning of the year [2022] and we decided it would be a good time to do it.”

Sue Diepeveen: “I have long wanted to do something for Women’s Month and when Fae suggested it I jumped at the chance – working in a team is so much easier and we bring different skills to the table which has made it such a pleasure to work on.”

Building the festival

How did you go about curating the festival and putting the programme together for this first festival and going forward, will you put out a call for submissions?

Faeron Wheeler: “We put out an open call for submissions and got some great productions coming through. For this first year, we also decided to specifically ask certain people if they would be interested in performing a show in the festival. We obviously don’t have a large following for the festival yet, so we needed that extra boost of seeking producers out. For future festivals, we’ll play it by ear and see what comes up. There will always be the open call though – you never know what gems you might find out there.”

Sue Diepeveen: “Curating any program can be fraught with difficulties especially now as things are opening up and artists suddenly having many options for work. We were lucky to be able to snag some of the Ovation winning pieces to come out of NAF [National Arts Festival].  There are also limits on what we could present in the timeframe we have and limited resources so we had to pick carefully. This meant letting some people down which is the hardest part of the job.  We tried to look for high quality work for all sectors of the community and are thrilled with our line up.”

Production costs

How are you operating in terms of door? Some festivals pay the artists a flat rate and some take a cut of door?

Faeron Wheeler: “For this year, we have had to work on a door split arrangement with the productions. There are no venue hire fees and we’re providing the technical setup and operators for the shows. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for the productions to come in and perform, and make it financially worth their while. It is our hope that we’ll get funding and sponsorship for next year and can pay productions a flat fee. The festival is a work in progress and we think it has an exciting future! We’re also incredibly grateful to all of the amazing artists and producers who have come on board for this inaugural run, trusting us with their beautiful shows.”

Destination festival – at one venue – park and stay for the day

Most festivals tend to have spread out venues. What is great about this festival, is that everything is at The Drama Factory. One can arrive and stay for a few hours. The Saturday and Sunday programmes are wonderful opportunities for people to see three shows – in one day – and there is a panel discussion on the Saturday. Will there be food available?

Sue Diepeveen: “It is definitely our hope that people will stick around and watch more than one show. We’ve tried to schedule it so that there is variety each day. Our FOH [front of house foodie stop] will be open and we hope to have our best in SA samoosas on sale as well as soup and rolls. We will do what we can to make sure everyone is happy, fed and watered in body and soul.”

Celebrating good work

During the pandemic, F Creations and and The Drama Factory, soldiered on – making work – staging it online and in theatre – with masked audiences and 50 percent seating capacity – and here we are with a live festival. That must be exciting? Your thoughts on transitioning back to live performance and celebrating with a bumper festival –six plays, a music show, a comedy night and a panel discussion?

Faeron Wheeler: “When we started planning the festival, masks and 50% capacity were still very much a thing. We are so excited that the theatre can now open up to a full audience! The whole idea for the festival was to give producers a platform for live theatre and an opportunity to make money from their shows. The more seats we can sell, the more chance there is of that happening. It’s also just so incredible to feel the buzz and vibe of a full audience once again. With the effects of the pandemic so fresh in our memories we know that this type of getting together to celebrate good work is exactly what is needed to uplift people as we all start to heal from the traumas and pain.”

Hybrid access – intersection of online and live

The online stage – virtual stage – became a vital medium during Covid. Will you be filming any of the works?

Faeron Wheeler: “We are considering live streaming the panel discussion or at least recording it so that as many people as possible can get the insights from the powerful women in the industry. Other than that, the festival is all about the in-person experience.”

New writing launch

Insecure is a new play, which premieres at the festival. More about that please?

Faeron Wheeler: “It is a brand-new production that is still under development by Silumko Theatre Company. The team is being led by Fleur Du Cap nominee for Best Director, Mava Silumko, and it should be an intriguing piece of theatre. Other than that, we’re also still waiting to see what the actors and director will come up with. We love that the company is always looking at new slants in their work and appreciate that many women do feel insecure and how that can erode our self-esteem.  While the production is mostly isiXhosa with some English, we know that they always deliver a high standard of theatre that is easy to grasp even if you do not speak a lot of isiXhosa”.

Sassy music

And Sassy Winter Classics?

Faeron Wheeler: “This will be The Drama Factory’s second Sassy Classics event. Anninge Kreft is one of the theatre’s tech team and happens to be a cellist as well as a mezza soprano who wowed our audiences earlier this year.  Anninge has approached other members of the team at the Drama Factory to join her to put together a lovely afternoon of classics – we are thrilled to be able to share the passions of the theatre’s staff.”

The Drama Factory’s Women’s Month Festival 2022– Your Voice, Your Stage

When: August 16-21, 2022
Where: The Drama Factory, 10 Comprop Sq, Henry Vos Close, Asla Business Park, Strand, Western Cape
Booking: With credit card or call 073 215 2290        

✳ Featured image of Sue Diepeveen and Faeron Wheeler. Supplied.

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