The 11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival will showcase 24 fresh and exciting productions from all over the Western Cape, and one from Gauteng, at The Baxter from 20 to 27 March 2021.

11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival

The week-long festival kicks off with the Zabalaza Weekend on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 March with performances, activities and entertainment over the two days.

The Main Festival will run from Monday 22 to Friday 26 March, with daily shows at 10am, 10.30am, 11am, 11.30am and 7pm, culminating with the awards ceremony on Saturday 27 March. Performances will be limited to 100 audience members (or less, depending on the venue),

The 2021 festival is dedicated to the memory of Zoleka Helesi, cofounder and coordinator of Zabalaza, since its inception. “The tragic passing of Zoleka in December 2020 has left a huge void, not only to her friends and colleagues from the Zabalaza and Baxter teams, but also for the arts in South Africa,” says Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot. “She played a vital role in linking schools with the festival, exposing thousands of learners from various communities to the magic and power of theatre, on a scale that they may not have had before. Her legacy serves as an inspiration to these young artists, theatre-makers, communities, audiences and all of us.”

11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Zabalaza Challenge at 11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival 

This year the Zabalaza Challenge will once again allow the public to make a significant impact on the festival and the artists involved. The Challenge, initiated by Foot in 2018, encourages individuals, businesses and organisations to join her in purchasing bulk tickets at only R30 each, for those who might not be able to afford them or would not otherwise be able to attend.

The impact of lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the Zabalaza team had to think innovatively and differently about conceptualising and planning this year’s festival, as well as the mini festivals, which were held at The Baxter in January.

A Script Writing Programme was introduced from August to October 2020 to inspire, encourage and support the development of new plays while creating an opportunity to learn an alternative approach to theatre-making. The process took place remotely with mentors assigned to the writers.

11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Play scripts published

Forty-two works of 15-minute segments were presented to a panel of adjudicators (no audience) at the week-long mini festivals. These took the form of performed staged readings where 21 scripts were chosen to be part of the main festival programme.

Each of these productions have undergone, and will continue to undergo, a rigorous script development and mentoring process leading up to the festival. An additional three shows were invited to be part of the line-up – two children’s theatre productions (Aha! and The Magic Shell/Uselwa Lemilingo) and Tainted, by Joburg group Flowers of the Nation.

To date, 10 of the Best of Zabalaza winners’ play scripts have been published through a partnership with Junkets Publishers and are available from The Baxter bookshop. In this way a growing body of plays that are accessible, relevant and artistically skillful, are easily available to communities, schools, other educational institutions and theatre groups.

The Zabalaza team is led by Mdu Kweyama (artistic director), Tshegofatsho Mabutla (administrator and coordinator) and Nontsikelelo Maboza (intern).

What: 11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Where and when: The Baxter from 20 to 27 March 2021

Tickets: Webtickets

WS