I don’t know much about what goes on behind the curtains at a children’s theatre other than what I can remember from my days as a ballet dancer. What I do know, though, is that it takes a lot of patience, organising skills and passion for one to make a children’s theatre work. Vicky Friedman was recently appointed as the new CEO of National Children’s Theatre in Johannesburg and she says it’s an honour.
“The theatre is loved by so many who have seen NCT productions over the years. Our brand is one of shared memories of families enjoying special experiences together.” The theatre has not only played a part in families, but it’s also impacted many school children across Gauteng. Vicky says the former CEOs, Joyce Levinsohn and Moira Katz were both extraordinary women. “Joyce Levinsohn was a wonderfully theatrical and passionate theatre maker and her successor, Moira Katz, an insightful producer, playwright and businesswoman.”
Vicky comes with a wealth of theatre experience herself, having performed in musical theatres like Chicago, Hairspray, Annie and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She has also done her share of choreography, directed musicals and did corporate events. Through the years, she witnessed the positive impact of music, dance and drama on children’s lives. “Five years ago, I turned my attention to producing children’s theatre. Now I get to contribute in an even bigger way through the incredible educational, entertainment and social impact work of NCT,” she says.
Why a children’s theatre?
Vicky says the National Children’s Theatre brings numerous benefits to society:
- It provides a dedicated platform for young talents to showcase their creativity and skills, fostering a love for performing arts from an early age.
- It cultivates a sense of community and belonging, as children from diverse backgrounds come together to share their stories and experiences.
- It serves as an educational resource, nurturing teamwork, discipline and self-expression.
- It plays a vital role in promoting cultural understanding and empathy, as young audiences engage with stories that reflect their own lives and those of others.
- It contributes to a vibrant and inclusive society, empowering the next generation of confident, imaginative and compassionate leaders, which South Africa so desperately needs.
How can the NCT assist with social skills?
Children lack certain social skills these days, with connection being something that many individuals and communities have less of in 2023. “Covid and the use of technology means that we are more disconnected from one another than ever before,” says Vicky. “The immediate and live medium of theatre is a perfect antidote to this. A live performance allows an audience the opportunity for a sensory and visceral experience that can evoke emotion, change hearts and minds and inform and educate.”
Educational theatre and developing social skills are two of the major things that Vicky is very passionate about. She wants to help grow the next generation of South African leaders. “Exposure to educational theatre and participation in performing arts provides a unique and engaging platform for children to explore complex topics, enabling them to develop critical thinking, empathy and problem-solving abilities,” she says. “Through theatrical performances and workshops, young individuals learn to communicate effectively, collaborate with their peers and express their thoughts and emotions confidently. Theatre encourages active listening and understanding of different perspectives, promoting a culture of inclusivity and respect. By immersing themselves in various roles and narratives, children gain a deeper appreciation for diversity and the value of teamwork.
Vicky believes that theatre ultimately empowers the next generation of leaders to become compassionate, adaptable and visionary individuals who can make a positive impact on their communities and society as a whole.
Future plans for the National Children’s Theatre
According to Nicky, her goal is to expand the reach of the National Children’s Theatre productions across the country. “NCT has toured across the provinces, but I am hoping to make an impact in all corners of South Africa. After all, NCT is South Africa’s ‘national’ theatre!”
The National Children’s Theatre offers productions for pre-primary, primary and high school learners, aged 3 and above. They also offer workshops and camps for children between the ages of 6 and 17.
Noko Goes To School is currently running until the 16th of August. They will also host an Afrikaans puppet show, Die Rot en Die Lawwe Kok, on 12 August at 14:00. On 13 August, they will host a “Learn to be a DJ” introductory workshop for children aged 11 and older. Bookings are also now open for families to see Pretoria Youth Theatre’s production of Aladdin from 6 – 9 September.
Bookings can be made on Quicket or directly through NCT by phoning 011 484 1584.