If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.” – John F. Kennedy

Our partners EasyEquities are proud sponsors of FEDA – the Festival for Excellence in Dramatic Arts – that gives hundreds of high school students from a diverse range of schools the opportunity, each (non Covid!) year, the opportunity to showcase their dramatic skills.

EasyEquities is all about empowering people and FEDA is just one avenue where the leaders of tomorrow (in fact, the youth in many cases are the leaders of today!) are being empowered.

Throughout the duration of this global pandemic art has been a source of comfort and escapism for many, whether it be an afternoon of Netflix binging, a book that has remained unread on the shelf for years, or an afternoon of painting for which you never used to have the time. How lucky are we that in dark times of uncertainty, isolation and loss we can turn to art. That we can felt seen by the characters, that we can turn inward, that we can feel inspired – time spent engaging with creations is never wasted, in fact it is necessary. The FEDA philosophy as described by its creators, Janet Baylis and Pippa Sandilands is that “theatre makes us fully human” and in a period where human connection is so limited, this could not be more important.

Covid-19 has transformed what it means to be an artist, particularly a theatre practitioner, both culturally and socially. The new restrictions are challenging established approaches to collaboration, to artistic and creative development, and to audience engagement. Festivals and theatres all over the world have embraced zoom performances and other various online platforms. This has been vital in keeping theatre alive however it cannot be equated to the electricity that comes from a live audience, the embrace of a communal experience and the magic of an actor and an audience sharing the same space.

The FEDA Team, along with our sponsors – EasyEquities, iToo, and BASA – have spent the last few months exploring all of our options. After a get together with the FEDA Community it was clear that students, audiences and teachers alike are craving the space to create, connect and share.

Since the festival was started in 2009 its function has been to give students a platform where they can express themselves and where they can explore issues that are significant to them. Over the years we have seen work where casts have explored their own identities and existential crises, pieces that have shed light on mental illness, that have discussed corruption and our government, work that has expressed pain about gender-based violence and enduring racism in our country. In 2021, after a creative vacuum that has lasted nearly two years FEDA is committed to continue amplifying our students’ voices and giving them the opportunity to express themselves.

However, we have also been acutely conscious of the safety of our casts, crew and audience members. As we have said before, this remains our top priority. That is why we have come to the decision to hold a weeklong pop-up festival this year. Unlike our previous festivals, this is not a competition to choose the best one-act plays, but rather an opportunity for students to showcase whatever they have created. The idea is in part inspired by the New York theatre scene’s pop-up month where theatres are hosting any show or performance and audience members buy tickets not knowing exactly what they will see. We truly value our students’ voices and after the collective trauma of the past year we believe they have many stories worth telling and many emotions to lay bare on the stage. Theatre is a true potent source for change, it is a wonderful tool for empathy and the FEDA space in particular allows to connect to the youth and the future of both South African theatre and of society in general.

With the hopeful prospects of the new vaccine and the gradual re-opening of public spaces, FEDA wants to be a part of building a new, post-pandemic theatre whose absence has only served to make us appreciate it even more!
Throughout history theatre and the arts have faced many periods of difficulty and each time the industry has mourned, innovated, and emerged stronger than it was before. It is true that the global theatre community is hurting right now, and that we are far from the end of this pandemic. But theatre allows us to be provocative and to take risks, and the responses that we have received from our community and the rate at which our pop-up week has filled up has proven that our students want to be brave, that they have something to say, and that they want to be heard.

We are honored to provide them with that opportunity and we cannot wait to open our stage to them and to open our seats to you. This is not a week to be missed!

The 2021 FEDA Pop-Up Festival will be held from the 24th to the 29th of May – tickets are free but limited and we hope you will join us!