Unwrapping gift of time

2020-03-24 06:02
The Masque Theatre will be reinventing itself during the downtime imposed on playhouses by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pictured is Keegan Steenkamp and Buddy Wells who have performed at the theatre.  PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs

The Masque Theatre will be reinventing itself during the downtime imposed on playhouses by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pictured is Keegan Steenkamp and Buddy Wells who have performed at the theatre. PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs

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While a forced shutdown isn’t good for any company’s bottom-line, this is especially true when it comes to entertainment-based businesses.

The Masque Theatre is currently looking into new ways to keep theatre-lovers stimulated, to support its membership and to reach out to new audiences.

The board at the Muizenberg theatre – like all the other theatre boards in Cape Town – has decided to close its doors following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of national state of disaster

“We’re postponing and clearing the entire calendar, at least until mid-June.

We can’t have it that we’re inviting the community and we end up infecting people. We need to be socially responsible,” said Daniel Enticott, chair of The Masque board.

But with the theatre’s current financial difficulties becoming more prominent, this time of “going dark” puts the theatre at very real risk. However, the board is determined that the show must go on – responsibly.

New opportunities

“We don’t want to sit and do nothing when it comes to theatre in the coming six weeks. We’re going to use the time productively,” says Enticott.

The Masque is looking at how it can strengthen its online presence and increase efforts to support the theatre-loving community.

There are going to be far more people online. And there’s a big opportunity there in terms of messages and telling stories. It’s a really good time to tell stories right now.

Making the most of this time, Enticott says the board has always wanted to increase their training capability. “And because we have an incredible history, and some fantastic theatre practitioners here, we would like to use the time to investigate creating a series of webinars.”

They will also look into telling the stories of the many society members – for example, local actors from the Muizenberg, Claremont and Constantiaberg, Fish Hoek dramatic societies – as well as their success stories through short videos.

“On top of that, we are focusing on building our online presence in general. We can take the time to look at our website and look at how we communicate with people. Very seldom do you get the gift of time,” says a Stern Masque Theatre trustee, digital transformation strategist, and sometimes Masque actress, Erica Schofield.

It will also launch a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy, to help with the hard costs, and, most importantly, focusing on the magic that has kept this theatre alive for 61 years: people.

Crises spotlight earning possibilities

“The Masque theatre, historically, is not a theatre producer. The board, which has been around since 2012 and is a registered NPO, is in the business of managing the space,” Enticott explains.

Deciding on which plays to stage is usually the member societies’ prerogative.

The Masque creates a professional-level theatre for its member societies to perform their productions. Being one of only two theatres in the Southern Peninsula, it also earns money by playing host to external productions such as the Cape Town City Ballet.

But, to augment its income, the board will in future also produce crowd-pleasers. Sister Act, originally scheduled to open in June, was meant to be the first.

Sister Act is going to be phenomenal. Unfortunately, rehearsals have been halted, though the cast is working on how to keep going in the virtual space! During any given season, we plan to have at least two Masque-produced shows which are open to everyone.

“Between ourselves and the societies, we invite the entire community to get involved onstage, backstage and wherever, however,” says Enticott.

He adds that this will also open up development and training opportunities for local theatre-lovers once Covid-19 has been contained.

Post-isolation contingency plan

“We want to keep calm and carry on, but we don’t want to put anyone at risk. We’re planning measures based on what we know now, but what we know changes daily,” says Enticott.

He adds: “We’re drawing up a complete protocol as to how things will run should we be in a position to re-open our doors.”

The board have put together a task team to continuously evaluate the situation, but have decided on some effective measures to be taken to ensure impeccable hygiene.

“But a big keyword is adaptability. We’ll keep re-evaluating our efforts,” says Enticott

Ultimately, Schofield explains, the theatre will continue to serve its purpose through this time of global crisis and beyond.

“The Masque Trust’s mandate is to support amateur, community theatre. It is a unique and special space,” she says.

The public is encouraged to support the theatre, the societies and all the volunteers – who produce theatre shows for no personal remuneration. Sign up for their newsletter and take up its invitation to join in the audience once the Masque Theatre reopens.

  • Follow @masquetheatre on Facebook for updates on shows, webinars and new opportunities.

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