New National Arts Festival executive producer Ashraf Johaardien has promised patrons nothing but “11 days of amazing” as he has kept to the legacy of the historic event.
Johaardien’s appointment as executive producer came after artistic director Ishmail Mahomed resigned early last year to take on the role of CEO at the iconic Market Theatre Foundation in Johannesburg.
This year’s festival will be Johaardien’s first as executive producer.
Johaardien, a playwright and arts administrator, is no stranger to the festival, having written, performed and produced work across the event’s Main, Fringe and arena stages.
His first appearance at the festival was in the 1993 fringe production, Suip! He has also headed the Arts and Culture Trust, and worked in theatres in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
With a few tweaks here and there, Johaardien said they have kept to the tradition of the festival, offering people the best productions in the country.
Featuring new works from theatrical firebrands alongside festival favourites such as the Gala Concert, presented this year by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Johaardien said visitors to this year’s festival could expect a thrilling mix of new and familiar in a programme that both reflects and challenges South African society.
“Creative disruption has served as the backbone for building this year’s core programme – and the response has been extraordinary,” he said, adding that it had been great working with the 20-member artistic committee to put together this year’s programme.
“As the executive producer, I make sure to implement whatever the committee would like to see happen,” he said, adding that working on the programme was not that difficult as the festival was a well-oiled machine.
“The festival has a loyal following and the programme is largely dictated by the audience.
“For the past couple of months we have been going through what the audience enjoys the most and trying to make the best of that,” he said.
There was one major shift in the festival schedule with the traditional line-up of the opening and closing weekends being switched this year, he said.
“Traditionally we open with a weekend programme anchored by an orchestra performance and, quite often, a ballet.
“The second weekend was given over to a closing party featuring some big music shows because school holidays fell later than usual this year.
“This year we’re flipping these weekends around with lots of high-profile artists performing on the opening weekend and the festival closing with the much-loved ballet and orchestra,” he said.
Among many performances, he was looking forward to Dada Masilo’s return to the festival.
“I am humbled to be a part of something so big and Dada’s return is a perfect fit to everything that we have planned,” he said.
lPre-bookings for all shows can be done at www.nationalarts festival.co.za.