Catalina Theatre closes its doors

2008-04-24 00:00

After staging some 100 productions over five years, the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf will close its doors at the end of the month.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the closure of the Catalina Theatre. It has been five years and a couple of months and was great fun while it lasted,” says Catalina Theatre boss Themi Venturas.

“Despite every effort made by myself and the board of TheatreBIZ, we are unable to convince Ithala, our landlord, to support the arts and help us to keep the venue open. Several appeals were made to Ithala management to give us more time to resolve the impasse, but to no avail. They have dug in their heels and are set to replace the theatre with another tenant. Legally, they have every right to evict us, but it seems that they have been short-sighted, and, in my opinion, unsympathetic in the long run. Initially they allowed us a moratorium on our rental to enable us to fundraise — but we all know that the fund-raising wheels are incredibly slow and unreliable in South Africa,” explains Venturas.

“Despite urgent appeals to the Ethekwini Municipality, and the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, we have not been able to raise sufficient funds to make this all go away. Certainly not fast enough to satisfy our landlord,” he says.

The Catalina is the only independent Durban venue which has consistently staged new, innovative theatre productions — particularly providing a platform for this region’s black, coloured and Indian theatre-makers to create new work. It has also staged the annual Musho! Festival — the city’s only spoken-word theatre festival to encourage new scripts and performances. It staged affordable children’s productions every holiday, encouraging a new generation of theatre-goers. Since opening, the theatre has run the successful Catalina mentorship programme for young aspirant theatre-practioners.

With the closing of the Catalina doors, the city is losing a valuable resource and theatre-makers are losing an indispensable platform to showcase their work.

“So, the theatre community has been let down once again. In the city where the so-called ‘fun never sets’, the sun is setting on another theatre venue,” concludes Venturas.

The last season of theatre to be held at the Catalina is a short season of two one-woman shows — Bridesmaid and My CV — both performed by Mary Steward and directed by Emma Durden — and the final show will be a concert by Henry Ate on April 29 at 8 pm. Tickets are R80. For more information and to book for shows, contact the Catalina Theatre at 031 305 6889.

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