On stage: Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa 2021, April-May, Cape Town

What: Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) 2021 Where and when: Artscape Theatre: April 19-24 and Masque Muizenberg: May 6-8 Tickets: R50 at both venues. Book at Computicket Number of seats: 100 tickets at Artscape and 50 at the Masque Theatre Website: www.ssfsa.co.za  Info: info@ssfsa.co.za  

The Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) is being presented on-stage in Cape Town at two venues- Artscape Theatre on the Foreshore: April 19-24 and the Masque in Muizenberg: May 6-8. This is the 11th edition of the annual festival. The 10th year edition opened in March 2020, at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town-shortly before Covid shattered live performance. The Fugard – which was celebrating its 10th anniversary –announced recently that it is closing permanently so it is rather sobering to think back on last year’s bumper SSFSA edition in 2020 and marvel that it in the 2nd year of the pandemic, with lockdown regulations in place, the festival is going ahead, albeit with limited seats and strict adherence to safety protocols.

The festival director is Blythe Linger. He took over from SSFSA founder Kseniya Filinova-Bruton who is based in St. Petersburg in Russia and is very much involved with the festival. Read the interview with Filinova-Bruton, conducted prior to the 2020 festival in which she explains the format and approach in making The Bard accessible and exciting for learners. https://thecaperobyn.co.za/the-shakespeare-schools-festival-south-africa-annual-fest-2020-the-fugard-theatre/ Schools may stage Shakespeare in period. They can localise and add argot, add in dance and music. Thirty minute abridged versions of Shakespeare plays, translated in most of our official languages, are available for schools to use. Every effort is made to accommodate schools and assist to make productions happen. Key to the festival from the inception has been its inclusivity. Everyone is welcome to participate at SSFSA: Visually impaired; hearing challenged; physical challenges. In addition to making the Bard accessible, the festival endeavours to ensure that there are no barriers to participating. Under-resourced schools need assistance with transport to venues; with food and refreshments for its learners. The festival does whatever it can to make sure that each learner is sorted. During Covid, the logistics are complicated by sanitising, social distancing and keeping learners and audiences as safe as possible. Many schools have been physically shuttered from March 2020 and it is incredible that with all the roadblocks, an on-stage festival has been assembled, at two venues. This a moment to say bravo to the organisers and funders.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShakespeareZA/ Twitter: @Edu_Cape @EducapeKseniya Instagram: @edu_cape  

Info as supplied by SSFSA:


Artscape from the 19th April – 24th April 2021 | Masque Theatre from 6th – 8th May 2021

The annual Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) is on at the Artscape Theatre Centre on the Foreshore and at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg. 

Launched in 2010 and now celebrating its eleventh year, the much anticipated youth event is going ahead, much to the delight of participants and audiences, and with all Covid-19 protocols observed throughout the process at schools and theatres. Blythe Stuart-Linger will be directing this year’s festival. 

Since inception, the SSFSA has been a highlight on the cultural calendars of amateur dramatic societies and school drama groups, and being able to hold the event after a particularly harrowing year for the theatre industry is welcome news. Said festival Founder Kseniya Filinova-Bruton who is now based in St. Petersburg in Russia, “We are thrilled to be doing live performances- it means so much to us and our enthusiastic  Shakespeareans who are able continue on their thespian paths of discovery, connect with other Learners and further develop their dramatic talents and associated skills.”  

Over the past decade the festival has become Africa’s largest Shakespeare youth drama program and to date has worked with over 490 schools, 9000 youth and 670 educators across the Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Audiences at both venues will be limited to 100 at Artscape and 50 at the Masque Theatre, with socially distanced seating arrangements. All productions will also be filmed and then streamed at a later date (to be confirmed) which gives theatregoers the option of enjoying the productions virtually.  The online aspect is huge in terms of global accessibility for Shakespeare fans and SSFSA representatives managing the festival in the different provinces in SA and in Russia, Estonia and Malawi. Most schools are conducting rehearsals in physical spaces using school halls or outdoor areas and technical rehearsals and performances will be onstage. This year, the Artscape line up comprises of Hermanus High School, Fish Hoek Primary School, Reddam House College, Atlantic Seaboard, De la Bat School, Leiden High School, Wynberg Boys’ Acting Association, Worcester Gymnasium, Westlake Primary School, Hout Bay International School, Athlone High School, Erinville Drama Club and Rhenish Girls’ High School. Performing at The Masque this year will be Curro Sitari High School, Herschel Girls School, Curro Century City High School, The Settlers High School and Westerford High School Drama Society. 

The way the festival works is that schools prepare and perform abridged versions of the Shakespeare play of their choice, approximately thirty minutes in duration, and year after year the interpretations have been incredible and innovative. Staging a Shakespeare play is a challenge and from start to finish the SSFSA provides guidance and resources, assisting with scripts, acting tips and directing and there are a number of educational programs that exist to benefit educators, emerging learner-directors and casts.  “The SSFSA is an ideal way for young people to explore their dramatic potential in a fun, developmental way and in a non-competitive environment”, said Stuart-Linger. The SSFSA is managed holistically and aside from the on-stage aspect the focus is also on the promotion of life skills with a spotlight on literacy, classic literature and the performing arts.

Importantly, the festival welcomes Learners who, although facing different abilities and challenges, have excelled in their acting abilities and productions. The De La Bat School for the Deaf using SouthAfrican Sign Language and thePioneer School for the Visually Impaired have both delivered ground breaking and extremely moving renditions of productions at past festivals, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. In exciting recent news, De La Bat learner Mxolisi Nodom who played Romeo in the 2018 SSFSA at Artscape, has recently landed the role of Thando in the eTV television series, Scandal, after being spotted onstage at the festival. He is the first deaf actor on the show and he made this comment about his journey to this point in his fledgling career: “The Shakespeare Schools Festival is amazing for the youth. It taught me and my classmates to be more confident, uninhibited, and to express emotions. I would lose myself in the performances, even forgetting about the audience,” he enthused.

Other exciting news is that the Pioneer School for the Visually Impaired was awarded second place out of nineteen entries in the 5th Dolgoprudnenskay Spring Open Festival for amateur drama groups that was held online via Moscow in Russia. They entered with a video presentation of Romeo and Juliet, the same production that they performed as part of SSFSA festival at the Fugard Theatre last year.

The SSFSA is about strengthening the link between the Arts and Education and uniting and empowering children from across socio-economic spectrum using the transformational power of theatre and specifically the works of Shakespeare to achieve that goal.  

The 11th Shakespeare Schools Festival opens on April 19 at Artscape at 7pm, featuring De la Bat School and Worcester Gymnasium in their versions of Anthony and Cleopatra  and Romeo and Juliet respectively. Tickets cost R50 at both venues, available via Computicket.  For queries and further info visit www.ssfsa.co.za or email info@ssfsa.co.za

Worcester Gymnasium staging Twelfth Night at a previous edition of the Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA). Pic: Mike Leresche.

❇ Sponsored content. Featured image: Generations Schools performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa, 2020 festival, at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town. The Fugard announced on March 16, 2021, that the theatre is closing – permanently. Pic by Mike Leresche.