(19 July 2012) -- A new era in South Africa has brought a new era for the stage with the opening of the Soweto Theatre in Johannesburg. One of the final projects of the 2010 World Cup cultural initiative, the $18-million theater opened on Africa Day, May 25th, 2012. The playful architecture and its three internal theaters will be the artistic heart of the world's most well-known township. The facilities have also been outfitted with top stage technology. Over 200 ETC Source Four® lighting fixtures, including 72 of the new ETC Source Four Fresnels, have been supplied by Johannesburg-based ETC dealer Prosound. The Source Fours are the workhorses in the main auditorium and fill the overhead rigs in the two studio spaces. Prosound Managing Director Ian Blair says: “With the installation of ETC's Source Four lighting range, the Soweto Theatre will stand out as a theater of international quality, rivaling not just Johannesburg and Cape Town but also London and New York.”
The new theater, which deliberately resembles a giant child's toy -- walls clad in bright blue, yellow and red tiles – contrasts with the old community halls where plays in Soweto were once performed. Theater-going fell during the 70's and 80's, when crime was rife. But times have changed. Audiences are back and selling out a venue suited to new artistic and technical ambitions.
“The choice to install the Source Four lighting range will give the theater's patrons an enhanced visual experience that will match any production in the world today,” says Blair. “We've already had fantastic feedback from visitors and staff and are honored to help regenerate the area.”
Denis Hutchinson, theater consultant on the project adds, “ETC Source Four Fresnels were a late entry into the competition. ETC flew a unit out to South Africa for me to test, and I was very pleasantly surprised. To the eye at least, the output is comparable to a 1200W Fresnel and, of course, you are only running 750W. So from the green perspective it's a better unit. They are very nicely and solidly built, and the way in which the lamp is housed is very solid. And virtually all the luminaires in the studio spaces will use the same lamp. This means the theater doesn't have to carry stock of lots of different lamps, which is also very useful in terms of ongoing running costs.”
The theater's lighting design will be augmented by an inventory of effects tools. “We supplied the theater with a large amount of fixture accessories,” says Hutchinson, “including barndoors, top hats, irises, gobo holders, boom arms, and lens tubes.”
The Soweto Theatre is made up of two variable-configuration studio theaters of 180 and 90 seats, along with a main proscenium auditorium with 420 seats. The first schedule is already sold out. In the long run, the theater is set to move from a receiving house to a production house. The venue is also currently the host of the popular TV talent show Idols.
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Photo caption: Soweto Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa
Photo credit: Sarah Rushton-Read