On September 16 the Market Theatre's Main Theatre was officially reopened after extensive refurbishment. The building that houses the Market Theatre is exactly one hundred years old and was originally the Indian Fruit Market.
The renovations to the Main Theatre have been underway since February and will ensure a better theatre experience for audiences and performers. There are plush new seats that offer more leg-room, and the capacity has increased from 380 to 450. Toilets have been upgraded and the box-office has been enlarged. The building is a protected Heritage Site and the architectural designs have kept the integrity of the building, including putting the original signboards, used by the market traders, back on show.
To mark the event Artistic Director, James Ngcobo, put on a star-studded celebration, which included excerpts from famous Market Theatre productions: Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard; Saturday Night at the Palace by Paul Slabolepszy; Nothing but the Truth by Dr John Kani; Have you seen Zandile by Gcina Mhlophe and Somewhere on the Border by Anthony Akerman. And on the music front veteran jazz saxophonist Khaya Mahlangu played alongside cellist Kutloane Masote.
The renovation was made possible by capital funding from the Department of Arts and Culture. The overhaul was sparked by renewal projects in Newtown and in particular the Newtown Junction, currently a massive construction site on the doorstep of the Market Theatre complex. Newtown Junction will be a mixed-use development of offices, retail outlets and restaurants.
The refurbishment is part of a larger overhaul plan that will be completed at the end of 2014. The Laager Theatre will transfer to an adjacent building, which will open up space to extend the foyer and create a new dressing room and new offices. Other exciting plans will see the area previously occupied by the famous Gramadoelas Restaurant reused as a jazz venue.
The Market Theatre has also purchased the COSAC building, in Bree Street, and will centralise its various cultural activities by moving the Laboratory Drama School, and the Market Photo Workshop School and Gallery, into this building.
The theatre was founded in 1976 by Mannie Manim and Barney Simon and challenged apartheid from the conviction that culture can change society. Now the much-needed overhaul will ensure it remains a leading light in South Africa's cultural scene.
In November the Market Theatre became the proud owner of 4 Martin MAC Vipers!
Summit TV was recently taken over by new owners and is now called Business Day TV (BDTV). The studio in which BDTV is filmed also hosts the Ignition Channel and the Home Channel (on the DSTV bouquet): hence the need for a lighting solution that offers dynamic color change.
Nico Steyn, from IntelliLAB, approached Electrosonic SA to help find the right solution. The studio has a large backdrop, floating LED Screens, and a newly redesigned presenters' desk. Electrosonic SA's Bruce Schwartz, in consultation with Nico, proposed a combination of Martin Tripix 1200 fixtures and Versa-light RGB strip lighting, all controlled off a Martin M-PC controller. The Martin Tripix fixtures were chosen for their high brightness; their quietness; and, most importantly, for their colour consistency. The Martin Tripix does not have shadow or colour separation problems, something inherent to many LED products.
The M-PC controller allowed BDTV to quickly set up presets for various shows, and then to instantly recall them; this ensures consistency and quick turn- around times.
Electrosonic SA's Omar Sharfoodeen and his install team had the fixtures installed in no time. Jesse Dullabh, Technical and Controller Support at Electrosonic SA, conducted control desk training to eager BDTV staff.
The charismatic Tommy Derbenus, from Power Room AV, knows the Johannesburg and Pretoria nightclub scene inside out. Tommy is a long-standing supplier of lighting and needed to expand his inventory. He wanted to invest in the best; equipment that would withstand the rigors of club life. After doing his research Tommy put his faith in the Martin Professional range.
Tommy spent time in the Demo Room at Electrosonic SA (Johannesburg), where he carefully reviewed various products. Eventually he decided on the Martin RUSH MH2 Wash as a good fit for the different clubs he is involved with. Because he also rents out to the staging industry he decided to stock up on an arsenal of MAC 101s. This decision was based on the feedback from MAC 101 owners, and on the sheer number of fixtures out there for cross rental. Tommy also needed to provide some wow factor in one of the larger venues. After seeing the Martin RUSH MH3 Beam he reckoned that four of them would do the trick.
Tommy's Martins are now working away night after night in premier clubs such as Taboo and Sway in Sandton; and Kong and Hush in Rosebank. Tommy is happy that his investment will serve him well over the long run; and that he has the committed support and backup of the Electrosonic SA team.
James Valpy's nick-name is 'The Hippotech', but he's not a hi-tech game ranger. This South African born, English trained, lighting and video technician trots the globe providing stunning visuals with Green Hippo Media Servers. I caught up with James backstage at the Johannesburg leg of Rihanna's Diamonds World Tour.
Born in Cape Town in 1988, James left South Africa for England when he was four. He studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and completed his BA (Hons) in Theatre Practice. James initially specialized in production lighting but soon gravitated to video as a medium. The knowledge of both proved invaluable.
James was working as an associate to the production designer Tupac Martir, when he met Ed Prescott on the Beyoncé Glastonbury tour. James bumped into Ed again in Azerbaijan where he was working as house tech for J-Lo, Rihanna and Shakira. In spite of the twenty hour days, James managed to keep a smile on his face throughout, and this made a good impression on Ed. Ed liked what he saw and put James's name forward as the Green Hippo Tech for Rihanna's Diamonds World Tour. James got the job, and he and Ed now both work for Bowman Touring Video out of the USA. Both provided their tech assistance throughout the entire Diamonds World Tour.
James first got his hands on a Hippo at university where, as part of his second year studies, he volunteered to program and engineer the video for a big musical theatre show. The university had an older V2 Hippo that was upgraded to a V3; and they used a MagicQ desk to program, which was similar to the Avolites desk, which James knew. James trained with Simon Harris and Hippo helped him out in loaning a machine for a university show. He quickly became the Hippo expert at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He was the crucial link between lighting and video, and in his final year of study he worked in the Green Hippo Office with Nick Charalampidis. He tested new versions of software, and got invaluable under-the-hood experience of the software. It was the perfect training for problem-diagnosis in Hippo Systems.
It all came together for 'The Hippotech' on the Diamonds World Tour, where his skills and experience were thoroughly tested. For Rihanna's B-Show there is no automation rigged, so James had to take all the original video content, which was pre-masked to the raster, and stitch it back together in After Effects. This meant he could use one Hippo to playback the content, instead of five Large Hippo HD units, which is how it worked on the USA leg of the tour. He had one week to build a 3 X Hippo HD system for the main show, and a 2 X Hippo Portamus system for the B-Show. The Diamonds tour was also the first show to use the new Blackmagic Design USB3 SD SDI capture cards. For the Johannesburg leg James used one Hippo Portamus to run the content on the screens on stage; and a backup unit to provide FX for the IMAG screens. At one point during the show all of the video was run through only two Hippo Portamus laptops.
Using two versions of Hippo software ver 3.2 to Time-code sync on a layer, it provided immense power when using DMX control. To date the system has been rock solid, as one would expect from Hippo.
The youthful James takes great inspiration from video practitioner legends such as Cherie Sturm, Ed Prescott, Graham Lambkin, Ed Lawlor and John Bowman; as he does from Green Hippo gurus Simon Harris, Kris Murray and Loren Barton.
The future is bright, not only for James but for media servers, which will become ever more crucial to the live event industry as projectors and LEDs get brighter. The challenge for the designers is to push their creativity, and stretch their technical capability, in designing more visually spectacular shows. When audiences pay top dollar to see a big live show, they expect a mind-expanding visual extravaganza. James 'The Hippotech' Valpy, and his Green Hippo Media Servers, are perfectly placed to deliver just that.