Raising its online curtain today for “11 Days of Amazing”, the 2020 Virtual National Arts Festival (vNAF) is the annual showcase’s answer to the lockdown challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Normally the event heats up the otherwise sleepy town of Makhanda in the Eastern Cape with a red carpet of local arts luminaries and new talent each bone-chilling June and July. This year, festival-goers can access the complete bill through the historical festival’s virtual stage instead.
“These daily programmes will consist of prerecorded performances (theatre, music, dance), films, live broadcasts, visual art ‘walkabouts’, workshops, and more,” the organisers said on the festival website. They “have been carefully curated around a theme; the preamble to each day’s programme will provide the framework for that day’s offerings”.
Launch day kicks off with a head-spinning variety of genres through the festival’s dedicated website portal.
Not to be missed is a global coup for a local festival: the world premiere of the magisterial Steven Berkoff’s Nixon in Agony, an audio drama about a US president teetering on the edge of madness while facing impeachment. Other first-day highlights include:
For the festival’s reimagined face, a record batch of sci-tech angles puts a new particle spin on the arts institution we have come to know and love. These range from astronomical explorations to presenting WhatsApp as a novel invention of the standard performance model. Take particular note of:
And that’s just today (Thursday 25 June).
Peter Martens, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal cellist, performs Bach’s Six Solo Cello Suites on his 220-year-old Lockey Hill cello, starting today over six separate days. The orchestra will perform prerecorded works of Verdi, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Elgar, Schubert and Dvořák; while the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will also put on a showcase recorded for the festival.
Other big-ticket items include Gloria Bosman, Mi Casa, Thandiswa Mazwai, young British multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier and Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Sisonke Xonti in the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, presented as part of this year’s vNAF.
vFringe dives into more experimental works that “bend the rules” of a world subverted by the pandemic. These cut across comedy, performance art, cabaret and magic.
Designed to support an arts industry ravaged by the shutdown, the festival’s web portal also features vFringe Live: this is a noticeboard for artists who are running events “on the go” on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Of this innovative addition, the organisers said: “Click through to the event from our website… buy your tickets once you get to the presenting site.”
Free-to-visit visual arts galleries will accommodate artists, enabling the public to interact directly with these creatives by purchasing or commissioning work from them.
Another interactive platform backing creative work is the “Virtual Green”. “Find your favourite festival slippers or hat” and “chat directly to crafters, creators and resellers” in their digital stalls “to make your deal.”
Arts enthusiasts can secure seats through a daily programme pass. A full festival pass unlocks the complete suite of content as it is unveiled each day.
Although some live-streamed events “will need to be watched on the day” at specific times, “most content will be available for viewing at whatever time is most suitable” to viewers — within an 11-day period of the release. Individual event tickets are also available. DM/ML
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