Responding to the psycho-social needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community

The Rainbow Theatre Company, a project of the Gay & Lesbian Network, will be performing at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. They will be performing “My Body, My Life, My Decisions”- a piece which looks at sexual orientation, gender identity and the prevalence of hate crimes within the South African context.

It incorporates contemporary dance, theatre, performance art and poetry to explore the stories of selected hate crimes which affect the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed (LGBTI) community in Southern Africa. Such crimes are motivated by prejudice and hate and include assault and corrective rape. There will be original images of well-known cases of such hate crimes to give voice to those victims and survivors who have been silenced. It is directed by Thobeka Bhengu and choreographed by Thobeka Bhengu and Smangaliso Mnguni, both of whom will also be performing.

The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar, and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent. It runs for 11 days and is held in the small university city of Grahamstown, which is situated in the Eastern Cape. The programme is divided between the main and fringe performance programmes.

The Rainbow Theatre Company will be performing in the Fringe Programme, which gives upcoming artists and performers the chance to showcase their work. The event has always been open to all regardless of race, colour, sex or creed. The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) and a children’s arts festival.

“We’re looking for actors, singers, comedians, poets, and anyone who wants to show off their talent to an appreciative and knowledgeable audience,” Fringe Manager Zikhona Monaheng said. “The Fringe is South Africa’s only truly open platform for artists – there is no selection process and everyone who believes in their work is welcome to take part,” Monaheng said. “It attracts artists from all over South Africa and from across our borders. International representation at the Fringe has grown steadily since the inception of the World Fringe Alliance – of which the National Arts Festival is a founding member. The Alliance is responsible for bringing in producers from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Prague, Brighton, Perth, Adelaide and New York looking for work to showcase at their festivals, creating scope for productions to extend their footprint beyond 11 days in Grahamstown to countrywide tours and international seasons.”

The Rainbow Theatre Company was established in July 2009, with volunteers of the Gay & Lesbian Network managing the group. The Gay & Lesbian Network adopted community theatre as a means of creating awareness of LGBTI issues in a safe environment. The group performs at various workshops and events of the organisation and its partners. They also perform at anti-bulling campaigns at local schools.  The group comprises of young men and women, between the ages 18 – 25 who are mostly unemployed or studying.

The Rainbow Theatre Company is a member of the South African Community Theatre Association (SANCTA) and the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA). They participated at the SANCTA Festivals in 2010 and 2011 and were placed fourth position out of 15 theatre groups nationally at the festival in Mpumalanga in 2011.

Last year, the Rainbow Theatre Company performed at Jomba, a contemporary dance festival run by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Creative Arts. They were the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) drama group to be part of the festival. The Rainbow Theatre Company is sponsored by the National Lotteries Commission. For more information please contact the Gay & Lesbian Network on 033 342 6165 or visit www.gaylesbian.org.za

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(From left to right) Back row: Thobeka Bhengu (director and choreographer), Londeka Zondi, Xolisile Ngubane, and Nontokozo Gumede.

(From left to right) Middle row: Tando Sifile, Ncamsile Mbambo, Minenhle Nhleko, Nonkululeko Duma, Nhlanhla Ngubo, and Nomthandazo Sithole.

Front: Simangaliso Mnguni (choreographer).

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