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Green Hippo at The South African State Theatre

Green Hippo at The South African State Theatre

Green Hippo at The South African State Theatre

South Africa:

Productions running at The South African State Theatre located in Pretoria throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have not only called on an impressive list of AV equipment, but has also been successful in keeping over 600 performing artists and theatre technicians in work creating stage productions at a time when the entertainment industry is on its knees.

Aubrey Sekhabi, the theatre’s artistic director, knew early in the pandemic that revenue would not be generated from ticket sales, front of house sales, hiring and wardrobe or parking. As a result, he and his team made a calculated decision to make productions available online, allowing patrons to purchase their “tickets” from Webtickets. Remarkably, the theatre started recording their shows six years ago and now these carefully stored gems could run another season, albeit online, while generating additional income and providing viewers with the opportunity to enjoy a night at the theatre in their own homes.

Using the budget they were normally given for in-house productions, and cutting out on unnecessary expenses, The State Theatre was able to pay artists to perform on their stage, with each show recorded. The project reached out to performers and technicians who are often the sole breadwinners, support extended family and, more likely than not, have no one to turn to for additional income Lighting and set designer Disbergen used his Green Hippo Hippotizer to create backdrops and effects for the performances. “For some of the shows, I did the lighting component as well but, for the most part, visiting lighting designers were hired to spread the work and allow more people to benefit from this incentive,” Disbergen explained.

On most productions, Disbergen had a live feed running from the SDI mixing desk that he could throw onto various projection surfaces or screens together with the performer's name or AV backgrounds. The Hippotizer controlled the 18k laser projector, either used for front projection and mapping, or, at other times, for rear projection with a fibre-optic cable.

For the SAST Fringe Festival, which featured 31 bands, the technical team filmed 4–8 bands a day. “It was virtually impossible to plot and AV had to be done on the fly,” he says. “The Hippotizer was excellent for this.”

The experience has been humbling. “I have just been incredibly fortunate to be able to work during this Covid-19 nightmare,” says Wilhelm. “And it’s all because a few people at The South African State Theatre realised that they could do something, and did so, at a time when many other organisations did very little, or mostly nothing. The State Theatre provided a platform for much-needed expression, relevance and work to artists at a time when no one was able to work or earn any income as a performer or technician.”

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