West Side Story Artscape Theatre

In March after popular demand, producer and human rights activist Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story returned to the Artscape. The American musical has been performed in Cape Town before and audiences raved about the brilliant actors, singers, dancers, music, and sets!

Jerome Robbins – Choreographer

Grant van Stern – Choreographer

Artscape Theatre

Artscape is one of my favorite performing arts venues in Cape Town. The theatre opened in 1971 as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre. It was renamed in 2001 and now belongs to the Western Cape Government.

Officer Krupke and Detective Schrank

The spectacular opera house has an exciting ambiance, including gardens, rehearsal rooms, and a stylish foyer. Over the years, I’ve joined friends there for memorable opera, ballet, musical, and comedy performances! Last night’s brilliant performance didn’t disappoint!

Eric Abraham – Film, Television, Theatre Producer

Stephen Sondheim – Songwriter

_____________

“West Side Story is a musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge, and death.”
_____________

Arthur Laurents – Screenwriter

Plot

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s timeless plot is set on the “harsh streets of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s”.

Rival street gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and Caucasian Jets, battle in a turf-war to gain control of the neighborhood. Tensions rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the rival Sharks.

Production

American choreographer Jerome Robbins conceived the story in 1957, and playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the West Side Story book. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein created the musical score with lyrics written by songwriter Stephen Sondheim.

Michael Brenner – Producer

The 1961 film version of West Side Story “won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress, best director, and best cinematographer”. The film also won a Grammy for best soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly one of the best musicals ever written.

Louisa Talbot – Choreographer

South Africa’s Matthew Wild directs the Artscape production with Charl Johan Lingenfelder as musical director and conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Louisa Talbot choreographed the production with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer and dance captain.

Charl Johan Lingenfelder – Musical Director and Conductor

In 2018, West Side Story is once again “sweeping Capetonians off their feet”! How could it not with the fabulous Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performing in the pit and an outstanding cast of forty exceptional performers?

Cast of Characters

Lynelle Kenned plays the role of Maria, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of a violent conflict between the Jets and Sharks. Kenned won the Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Among her many talents Kenned is a soprano opera singer with a marvelous voice!

The main character Tony – former Jets leader – is torn between his gang friends and love for Maria. The part is played by talented US actor Kevin Hack who has performed the role almost 400 times. Hack recently completed an international tour playing in the 60th anniversary international tour of German producer Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story.

Matthew Wild – Director

Singer, pianist, violinist, dancer, and actress Bianca Le Grange plays Anita, Maria’s friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend. Daniel Mpilo Richards plays Bernardo, proud leader or the Sharks.

Leonard Bernstein – Composer and Conductor

_____________

“The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from act to act leaving its audience’s heart thumping!”

_____________

Artscape Foyer

Artscape Theatre Centre Cape Town

Artscape Foyer Upper Level Lounge

Sculptures Artscape Entrance

The actors are multi-talented with impressive accomplishments and careers. The beautiful, strong dancers were magnificent!!! Main characters include:

  1. Lynelle Kenned – Maria, Bernardo’s sister in love with Tony
  2. Kevin Hack – Tony, former Jets leader in love with Maria
  3. Bianca Le Grange – Anita, Jet, Bernardo’s girlfriend, Maria’s friend
  4. Daniel Mpilo Richards – Bernardo, Shark leader, Maria’s brother, Anita’s boyfriend
  5. Stephen Jubber – Riff, quick-­tempered Jets leader
  6. Sven-Eric Muller – Diesel, Jets second-in-­command
  7. Craig Urbani – Schrank, police detective
  8. Richard Lothian – Officer Krupke, beat cop
  9. James Borthwick – Doc, owner of the store where the Jets hang out
  10. Clint Lesch – Chino, Jet, Maria’s suitor, and friend of Bernardo
  11. Logan Timbre – Action, quick-­‐tempered member of the Jets

West Side Story Artscape Willem Law Photographer

It was an interesting, eclectic crowd attending the performance – an evening of entertainment by extraordinarily talented young artists! Many more than mentioned here helped with production of the musical.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Next weekend Artscape hosts the 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The exciting lineup includes Alistair Izobell, Amanda Black, GrazRoots Project, Blinky Bill, Claire Phillips, Miles Mosley, Nduduzo Makhathini, Mabuta, Louis Moholo, and many more outstanding artists!

In Bocca al Lupo

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

You never know what might happen at Cape Town’s Alexander Theatre – that’s the beauty of the place! The Mother City is rich in creativity, energy, and talented artists. Last night’s performance – In Bocca al Lupo – was a phenomenal one-woman show!

Jemma Kahn

Before last night, I hadn’t experienced the art of kamishibai – “a twelfth century Japanese form of storytelling where a storyteller’s tale is presented with the help of cardboard panel illustrations”.  In Bocca al Lupo was totally engrossing!

Jemma Kahn studied kamishibai under “veteran Japanese performer Roukda Genji, and the two performed throughout Japan”. In Bocca al Lupo is Jemma’s memoir – or maybe not. I didn’t know about her before last night’s performance, so the story that kept the audience engaged could have been her own, or perhaps it was fictional?

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

_____________

“While kamishibai may be the device Kahn uses to portray her tales, it’s not the only thing that sets her apart as a master storyteller.”

_____________

Jemma Kahn

To summarize simplistically, the memoir begins as the story of a young South African woman who feels like a failure living a boring life. She decides to spice things up and expand her world by embarking on a two-year adventure teaching English in Japan.

Alexander Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

_____________

“Kahn has the charisma of an old Hollywood starlet. To be a member of her audience is to be in a state of enchantment for a full 80 minutes.” 

_____________

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

After living in Japan for several months, Jemma experiences culture shock and ponders its four stages – honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, acceptance – ha ha ha. This is something I can relate to firsthand having traveled abroad extensively on my own!

Jemma Kahn

The romantic concept of living in a foreign country is often deceptive. Jemma does a masterful job of telling her (or someone’s) story of alienation as a foreigner in Japan – an unfamiliar country that in the end, was not for her.

Jemma Kahn

_____________

“One’s travels can be rife with anxiety, loneliness, culture shock, and the depression that inevitably comes with isolation.”

_____________

The Epicene Butcher

Using a series of four “beautifully drawn images displayed on cardboard story panels” Jemma meticulously connects with her audience, drawing them in and leaving them hanging on her every word and description! She adds humor to her stories, even though some of the subjects she discusses aren’t funny.

A multi-talented artist trained in fine art and drama, Kahn created many of the kamishibai panels she uses. Her talented award-winning crew are remarkable:

Jemma Kahn

In Bocca al Lupo (into the mouth of the wolf in Italian) follows two of Kahn’s other popular kamishibai shows:

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

The Epicene Butcher – described as stories that “seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral” toured internationally and was performed 400 times.

Jemma Kahn We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants photo by Dean Hutton

_____________

Jemma Kahn has “captivated audiences from Cape Town to Edinburgh to Amsterdam with her unique take on the 12th century Japanese art form Kamishibai”.

_____________

Alexander Theatre

The phrase “in bocca al lupo” is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck before a performance. The standard response is “crepi il lupo” or, more commonly, simply “crepi” (may the wolf die). The Italian expression is similar to the English actor’s idiom “break a leg, reflecting a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person ‘good luck’ before a performance is considered bad luck”.

In Bocca Al Lupo Poster

There are several theories on how the Italian expression originated. For this show, “the phrase illustrates the leaps of faith Jemma took to create her third kamishibai play”.

Alexander Theatre Bar

_____________

“The play follows Kahn on her journey to Japan and then Ireland, as she regales her audience with all the things we fail to mention when asked about our travels to another country.”

_____________

Alexander Theatre

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of restoring broken ceramics using lacquer and gold dust to repair cracks, emphasizing and assigning value to the site of repair. In Bocca Al Lupo has a similar effect. Kahn, co-writer Tertius Kapp, and director Jane Taylor expertly curate her story by selecting the cracks as the focal points which form the narrative.”

Jemma Kahn

Although I often find memoirs boring, if In Bocca al Lupo really was one, it was a delightful, thoroughly enjoyed, and well-performer story – a must see in Cape Town!

Kirstenbosch and Claremont

Kirstenbosch Sculpture

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places on earth. It touches me every time I visit. Fog is back in the Cape and mysteriously draping itself over Table Mountain – yesterday was a great day to see the garden.

It’s hard to say which Kirstenbosch delight is the best – fragrant gardens, dramatic mountain views, gourmet restaurant, exotic birds, stone sculpting, or gallery of South African artists. It’s a big dose of beautiful!!

James Yates – Namaqualand in Bloom

I visited the gallery and especially liked the landscapes of James Yates. The current exhibition – Professional Cape Artists – features paintings, ceramics, and wooden sculpture of popular local masters. The exhibition is on display between 16th February and 11th March.

Cape Dutch Manor House

Dutch Colonial House

Southey Cottage Claremont

Cape Dutch Manor House

Cape Dutch Manor House

Other favorite artists include Bill McGill, Mieke Teijema, Lionel Smit, and Tony Butler. It was too much trying to sort names with each piece. I took the curator’s card.

James Yates

I hiked a close-in trail, had lunch, toured the art gallery, and enjoyed the spectacular stone sculpture perfectly placed throughout the grounds. Families were relaxing and picnicking on a lush carpet of grass.

Bill McGill

Kirstenbosch’s water shortage isn’t as dire as Cape Town’s. Its irrigation flows from a different source – surface runoff and streams in Window Gorge and Nursery Ravine.

Gorges, Buttresses, Ravines Table Mt.

Nelson Mandela by Tony Butler

Chemicals aren’t used in Kirstenbosch’s drinking water. It’s “extracted from boreholes that tap deep into the Table Mountain Aquifer 200 ft. below ground level”. The drinking water from the aquifer is of “such high quality it’ could be bottled”!

Everyone is taking the drought very seriously. It was nice drinking fresh spring water, washing my hands, and flushing the toilet without feeling guilty. Most public toilets in Cape Town have hand sanitizer dispensers. Sink water is turned off.

James Yates

James Yates

James Yates

This trip I’m exploring Claremont – a leafy suburban neighborhood 6 miles south of Cape Town. Although nothing beats the energy and excitement of Cape Town, I wanted to experience  a new area.

Lionel Smit

My B&B is between Claremont and Rondebosch, both are growing areas surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and Cape Dutch architecture. The University of Cape Town is nearby. It’s quite a change from the chaos in Maputo!

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve is a hidden KwaZulu-Natal gem tucked away between Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg. The coastal forest and grasslands have local history, including “mysterious burial mounds” and remains of The Umbilo Waterworks built in 1887 and now a national monument.

History

“In the late 19th Century, Durbanites caught a train to Pinetown Bridge and walked down to The Waterworks for picnicking, boating, fishing, and hiking. In 1905, a destructive flood quickly put an end to Umbilo Dam.”

Waterworks Ruin

Waterworks Ruin

_____________

“In 15 devastating hours 16 inches of rain fell, and logs, bamboo, and debris blocked the river at Pinetown Bridge.”

_____________

Waterworks Ruin Spillway

The bridge gave way, and the ensuing tidal wave killed hundreds of people and destroyed countless homes on the lower Umbilo riverbanks. Durban discovered alternative water supplies, so Umbilo Dam was never rebuilt.”

Strelitzia Nicolai – Wild Banana Tree

Hiking Trails

There are four hiking trails in the nature reserve – Duiker, Bushbuck, Waterfall, and Dormouse. They begin at the Interpretive Centre on a path leading down to the picnic area. The start of the Waterfall Trail is a 30-minute walk over old wooden bridges on the other side of the Umbilo River. The trail continues following beautiful flat river rock and thick jungle-like terrain with massive strelitzias – wild banana trees.

Waterfalls

The Waterfall Trail passes sprawling yellowwood trees, ponds, and a historical waterworks slipway. Near the bottom of the falls beyond the turnoff to Duiker Trail, there’s a natural viewing platform. In the summer heat, a large pool below the falls is tempting, but water quality is poor, and swimming isn’t recommended.

Paradise Valley Wooden Bridge

I’ve been a bit under the weather with a stubborn virus and haven’t done much strenuous activity for a week or so. The gentle Waterfall Trail was perfect. I met several couples enjoying the romantic falls and heard but did not see animals. Fragrances in the light, humid air and the sweet sounds of birds singing were magnificent!

Bushbuck Cardo Kleberg

Dormouse Pinterest

Stainbank Reserve, Toti Beaches

Yellowwood Tree

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is an extraordinary mass of vivid green with gorgeous grasslands and thick coastal forests, including yellowwood. Yellowwood, present in the country for more than 100 million years, is South Africa’s national tree. The reserve provides an ideal habitat for indigenous plants and animals. Even insects like centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers, dragonflies, damselfies, and caterpillars thrive there.

Masked Weaver Nests

Southern Masked Weaver by John Caddick

The reserve is near my accommodation in Amanzimtoti, aka Toti. I spent the afternoon hiking in the 600-acre park sighting zebra, red duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey, mongoose, and birds, including a majestic African Fish Eagle. Cute Southern Masked Weavers are a favorite, and hundreds of them had built their nests dangling from trees near the dam.

Hiking Trail

Hiking and Coedmore Castle

The park has hiking paths, a cycling trail, picnic areas, creeks, a dam, and the remains of Coedmore Castle. Kenneth Stainbank’s Scottish father built the Baronial style castle in 1885 with the help of stonemasons using stones from the Umhlauzana River.

Dawn Amanzimtoti

Same Amanzimtoti Sky 8 Hours Later

_____________

“When Stainbank built Coedmore Castle, he wanted to create a little piece of Europe on grounds filled with African antelope and monkeys.”

_____________

Bushbuck

You can arrange a tour of the castle’s interior. Descriptions of the steel-pressed ceilings, wooden paneling, and an iron staircase into the tower sound impressive. The castle’s exterior is wrapped in peaceful gardens.

Coedmore Castle

Coedmore Castle Durban

Scottish Stainbank married Ethel Lyne, a South African from Pietermaritzburg. They had seven children, and their eldest daughter, Mary, was an artist. Rooms throughout the castle contain sculptings she produced from her garden studio. Stainbank’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Keith, and her family still live on the property.

Doonside Beach

Surfer Baggies Beach

Mary Stainbank introduced the modern school of sculpture to South Africa. Her work is displayed in the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery which also hosts other artists’ exhibitions. The Coedmore gallery houses the largest, intact collective body of work by any one sculptor in South Africa.”

The weather was warm but overcast with a slight breeze – a good hiking day. I took the “red path” which encircles the reserve and involves creek crossings. It’s a gentle hike with a few mildly challenging areas. I met several people along the path. It’s school break, when South African families spend time together.

Doonside and Warner (Baggies) Beach

Heavy storms from October 2017 damaged the coastline and beach below my accommodation. Repairs are in process. It’s possible to walk on the beach, but until they finish rebuilding parts of the hillside, getting up and down is dangerous and tricky. I’ve spent most beach time at Doonside and Warner – two busy, entertaining beaches!

Water Lily

First visit at Doonside was windy, and my beach umbrella kept blowing away. A local watched as I chased it down the beach and showed me how to anchor it by burying part of the umbrella canopy in sand. Amazingly, it held for hours despite heavy wind!

Buried Beach Umbrella

Southern Masked Weaver

Even after applying what seemed ample SPF sunscreen protection, I still got sunburned while swimming, snorkeling, and walking on the beach. Later, I purchased a surf tee with UV protection. The stinging wind-blown sand against my sunburned skin eventually forced a retreat – but not before I enjoyed hours of therapeutic beach time!

Creek Crossing

Indigenous Grasses

Durban beaches are not as pristine as Seychelles, but the long sandy stretches are pleasant and usually filled with happy people having fun. Surfers frequent areas of Warner Beach (also known as Baggies Beach) that have powerful waves.

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

The beach is a surfing hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal. Baggies Beach “hosts the Baggies Surf Pro, and welcomes international legends who crave the exciting waves”. It’s also a favorite spot for nimble kite surfers – love watching their moves as they seem to fly from wave to wave!

Dancing Jewel Damselflie

Grasshopper

Caterpillar

Stainbank Reserve Dam

Lone Grassland Tree

Durban Beaches, Verulam, Gandhi

Durban Skyline from Coco Beach Promenade

Durban’s beaches are fascinating and beautiful. I’ve been exploring but haven’t found a “favorite” beach yet. November weather is volatile and windy – clear in the high 80s one day, rainy 60s to 70s the next. The storms are proper deluges with violent cracking thunder and lightning. Like Oregon, in less than an hour, skies can change from blue to menacing grey, black, and white. I fell asleep at Uhmlanga Rocks beach and woke up to wild dark skies –  followed by heavy rain.

Coco Beach Sky

Except for Istanbul, I’ve never seen so many tankers in a harbor! At all times, there are 30 or more waiting to enter the bustling shipyards.

Tankers Near Umhlanga Rocks Beach

Durban Beaches

So far, the beaches are my favorite Durban experience. Nothing compares to Cape Town’s magnificent Table Mountain. Haven’t explored Durban’s arts world except for a Philharmonic concert and a few museums and galleries.

Animals and nature are a big part of South Africa. I want to visit more game reserves in the area, many are only a few hours away.

Beachgoers Ansteys Beach

_____________

“The year 2014 marks a hundred years since Mahatma Gandhi left South Africa for good after spending his formative years in South Africa, where he developed his philosophy of satyagraha, a form of active yet peaceful resistance to political injustices.”

_____________

Methodist Church Verulam

I’m trying to understand Durban’s suburbs and districts. Planned to hike in a nearby nature reserve on Sunday and arrived to find zero cars in the parking area. Burman Bush is part of Durban’s municipal Open Space System. It’s a gorgeous 180-acre coastal forest reserve in the heart of Morningside neighborhood. As I was putting on my daypack, noticed a homeless encampment in the bushes and several threatening-looking people. Decided to change plans. It’s sad that there are dangerous areas.

Ballito Beachgoer

Verulam Churches, Hindu Temples, and Mosques

Got lost in a small town called Verulam. Verulam was settled in 1850 by British Methodists. The town was named after the Earl of Verulam, patron of the Brits who settled there.

One Verulam street is named after George Sewpersadh, an Indian political activist. There’s an old neglected but interesting Methodist church near the courthouse. It’s said to be one of the oldest churches in KwaZulu Natal. A local man told me there were plans in the works to restore it as a historical monument.

Vendor Umhlanga Rocks Beach

_____________

“The Muslim community played a major role in the history of Verulam. Sunni Mosque is in central Verulam on Wick Street, with palm trees in the front that are over 80 years old.”

_____________

Sunni Mosque Verulam

Verulam is also home to Sri Gopalall Hindu Temple which opened in 1913 by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi spent his formative years in South Africa. Nearby Gayathri Peedam is the only Hindu temple in Africa that houses two full figure Gayathri Murthis.

Umhlanga Rocks Beach

_____________

“By capitalism I just want to make this one point. From the beginning of time we have had social changes. Power concentrated in a few hands leads to exploitation and abuse and wrongdoing. The whole basis of change is to get more and more people involved in the sharing of power.”   George Sewpersadh

_____________

Methodist Church Veralum

I’m sorting through my luggage to leave behind excess and take only what’s necessary to the Seychelles. I’ll be arriving on Mahé Island December 1 to thunderstorms and temperatures in the mid-80s!

More later…

Umgeni River Bird Park

Harlequin Macaw

Cape Parrot

Rose-Ringed Parakeet

This week I discovered one of Durban’s hidden treasures, Umgeni Bird Park. The beautiful park is near the Umgeni River and has walk-through aviaries, birds on perches, wonderful green vegetation, waterfalls, and rock faces.

Endangered Mabula Ground Hornbill

Mute Swan

Wattled Crane

Lady Amherst Pheasant

The Free Flight Bird Show features “endangered and critically endangered species like the Wattled Crane, owls, storks, hornbills, and a Cape Vulture doing what they do in the wild in free, unrestricted flight”. The park emphasizes conservation and education, and there were several school children visiting.

Cockatoo

Toucan

South African Crowned Crane

The Park was designed and built by Dr. Alan Abrey. It’s in a river quarry that he visited as a boy growing up in Durban. “After a year of extensive land filling, landscaping, and aviary construction, the Umgeni River Bird Park opened in April 1984.”

South African Blue Heron

Peacock

“The park is situated on 9 acres of lush tropical landscaping and houses an ever-increasing collection of more than 800 birds from 200 species. Some species are endemic to South Africa, others are the only representatives of their kind in Africa, and some are common house pets.”

Flamingos

Sun Parakeet

Pheasant

It was an informative afternoon. The birds were fun, very vocal, and cooperative posing for photos. When it’s feeding time, you need ear plugs!

Kookaburra

Scarlet Ibis