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2011-03-26: Soweto "black box" theatre construction on track

EXECUTIVE Mayor Amos Masondo is satisfied with the progress of the construction of the R150-million Soweto Theatre which is well underway.

The Mayor and his team of Mayoral Committee members donned hard hats to visit the construction site and took a guided tour of the project along with the media, who had their first sneak peek of the complex today.

The Soweto Theatre will be central to the development of the Jabulani Business Node. The Node will be focused on a zone of public space called "The Cultural Heart".

This zone will include the existing Jabulani Amphitheatre which is to be refurbished, as well as parkland, public art and other public amenities including the new Soweto Theatre.

In this area a space is being created that will serve as a focus for the entire Jabulani development – a space that will both stimulate and cultivate cultural and artistic excellence.

Once the theatre is finished, it is expected to create new opportunities for the many theatre groups and individuals living and working in Soweto. It will also give residents quality entertainment on a regular basis and will provide for education and training in theatre and the performing arts.

The Soweto Theatre, which will be Soweto's first professional performing arts centre, is being delivered by the Johannesburg Property Company in partnership with the Department of Community Development.

The Theatre's design architecturally presents a modern facade to its surroundings in the form of three brightly coloured  boxes. This was inspired by the "black box" theatrical concept.

A black box theatre is one with neutral dark surrounds which can be visually "shrunk" to suit just a single actor – as in a poetry reading – or visually "expanded" to include a really large cast. This makes for a highly flexible performance venue, which is what the Soweto Theatre is designed to be.

The finished building will be a full performing arts complex rather than just a theatre. It will include:

A 420-seat main venue with an end stage, fully provided with wings and buttress;
Two smaller "black box" venues  of 180 and 90 seats respectively;
A generous indoor foyer area with circulation to all three venues;
Multi-level change rooms, storage rooms and a "green room"
Interface with an outdoor covered plaza, which will serve as additional informal performance space.
Construction of the theatre started in June 2009.

R50-Million of Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding has been allocated to the project for the 2010-2011 financial year.

A further R60-million became available when the transfer of properties was registered last year.

To date R15-Million has been spent on the project. This equates to 10% completion based on cost. Final completion is scheduled for the end of 2011, but the facility will only be opened to the public in early 2012. Upon its completion, the Soweto Theatre is expected to cost around R150-million.

The Soweto Theatre will be managed by the Department of Community Development.

The comprehensive business plan includes a complete assessment of the staffing, management and running costs. It's expected that the Theatre will eventually have 55 employees.

The theatre was identified as a legacy project of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. In all, seven such legacy projects were announced in January 2007, to make sure that the city and its residents continued to benefit from the sports tournament long after it had finished.

At the time, the City of Joburg earmarked about R1-billion for these projects, which were designed to stimulate economic and social development in previously neglected areas. With the Soweto Theatre, the investment is poised to stimulate artistic development too.​