Last week I met an incredibly exciting person, Douglas Newell. Douglas has 40 years of experience and is an award winning director, actor, writer and teacher. He is a produced playwright for the stage and Canadian National radio. His screenplays have won awards in Los Angeles. He is now Botswana! Douglas came to work here as part of the visual and performing arts department at UB.
He wants to teach by doing and creating. Douglas said “some people design the house and I build the house.” He’s trying to change people’s perceptions of theatre within Botswana and to give the Arts the recognition they deserve. His latest project is called Once upon a Playground and it’s a part of the Maitisong festival.
When did the project start?
The auditions were in early January. Douglas said if you were a wheel chair user or blind he would find a way to put you in the play. “It’s not about what you don’t have but rather what you do.”
What’s the play all about?
Without giving too many spoilers away the play is essentially how people are different but want to be friends. How people want to belong so they hide those differences. Principally the fears we had as a child we still hold onto today. It’s a humorous one-act play for families. Douglas has changed the play from the original, by cutting off the end, cross gender and cross age casting the play.
What makes you the play family-friendly?
Conventional theatre has limitations. Things like if you have mobility challenges, need to fidget or can’t have too much stimulation you are generally excluded. In normal theatre it’s frowned upon to make any noise or even move! That’s not the case with Once Upon a Playground. Everyone is welcome. They want to relax the rules of normal theatre as the arts are for everyone.
The play is also only 30mins long. This makes it great for kids. Douglas thinks anyone who is 5 years and older will love it.
How many people are involved in the play?
There are a total of 16 with a cast of 9. Some are UB students that are part of the Visual and Performing Arts program and others have never been on stage before. It’s a diverse bunch.
No one is being paid; instead it’s an equity co-op. That means that everyone takes a share of ticket sales after expenses.
When is it?
Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of April. AKA this weekend! The Sunday show is the super inclusive and relaxed performance.
How do you get tickets?
Tickets are P75 each. You can buy them online or call 397 1809.
Having chatted to Douglas I’m so excited to see Once Upon a Playground. It sounds like they have all been working very hard. The belief is for every minute of performance there must be an hour of rehearsal. That’s a lot of work that has gone into this gem and it sounds like it will be amazing. I’ll be there on Saturday; I hope to see you then!