Kline Smith wins best writer and director award at National Arts festival

Kline Smith from the University of KZN (Pietermaritzburg) won the best director and writer title at the 2012 Student Theatre Festival at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.  An emotional and overwhelmed Smith is the first  South African to win the Post Office Cape Triangular Award.

This year’s Hands On! Masks Off! programme at the National Arts Festival introduced a set of incentives, sponsored by the South African Post Office. Judged by a panel of Student Theatre Advisors drawn from SA, the UK and the US. The award acknowledges and honours the best work on the Student Theatre programme,  aimed at catapulting emerging professionals participating in the Student Theatre Festival into the more complex creative economy. The judges were Kathy Perkins, lighting designer and arts theatre academic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Kemati Porter, Artistic Director of the D iaspora Season in the USA; Gez Casey, actor, playwright and Artistic Director of Live Theatre UK; and seasoned South African theatre critic and arts writer Christina Kennedy.

Smith’s show Mob Feel told the story of gang violence and ethnic rivalry that took place in the township of Westbury, Johannesburg in the 1950s. The performance is a love story with violence and passion, meshed with physical theatre and live music on stage.

Based on the success of his production this year, Smith will be awarded a budget to create a production with a postal theme for the 2013 National Arts Festival Fringe lineup. The content for the production will be created in conjunction with subject matter experts from the South African Post Office.

“I am speechless. We have put months of blood, sweat and tears into this, and I am without words. Presenting at the National Arts Festival is something many performing artists dream about and never have the opportunity to experience,” said Smith.

The cash injection garnered through SA Post Office’s sponsorship, who have come on board for the first time this year, has allowed for tremendous growth at the Student Festival and afforded a record number of 16 institutions from across the country the opportunity to compete against each other at the National Arts Festival. This year’s Student Theatre Festival proved to be one of the highlights of the Festival with full houses and top class productions.

The sponsorship forms part of a long term growth strategy for the SA Post Office to cultivate their investment in the SA arts and culture industry. Speaking at the awards ceremony Lungile Lose, SA Post Office group executive for corporate affairs said, “Being our first year sponsoring this is very significant moment for us. We are passionate about nurturing arts talent in South Africa and providing exposure, encouragement and financial support to the youth.”

“We are in the process of joining BASA and we hope that soon the SA Post Office will become a recognised brand associated with the arts industry. We would like to congratulate Kline Smith on his well deserved award and we look forward to being part of the 2013 National Arts Festival,” concluded Lose.

Additional awards were given in the following categories:

Best Overall Production: Homeless Orchestra by UCT (their award included a larger production for the 2013 Student Festival)

Best Ensemble: Fence by the Market Theatre Lab

Merit Award: Reclaiming Body – Reclaiming Self by UWC

Up and Coming Director: Joanna Evans from University of Cape Town

Best Poster Design: University of Johannesburg for SA Shorts and University of Stellenbosch for Animals  

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