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Can Rooftop deliver this time around?


IMAGES still linger in many people’s minds of that thatched gazebo in the Harare Gardens that drew a sizable number of crowds each time a new play was being unveiled.

Silence Charumbira/Christopher Mahove

The queues to the wine table once the bar was announced open and the potato crisps.
Not that they were the most important part of such events, but they were a sign that a production team had sat down and come up with a consumable piece of theatre.

Gathered in the picturesque setting a few paces in front of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair offices and blanketed by the fresh air dispensing trees in the garden would be thespians and artistes of different genres waiting to consume the latest production from Rooftop Promotions.

Munch, munch and gulp! They would devour the snacks while their imaginary minds were busy at work imagining what the director of the pending production had managed to bring to the table.

Yet that died towards the end of 2012 when theatre lovers were turned away from their beloved space.

It is temporary; they said then and so it has been “permanently temporary” until now.

But a flicker of hope has once again been spotted at the end of a telescopic lens to say Theatre in the Park is coming back.

The new 500-seater venue that was promised almost two years ago looks to be finally coming to fruition, at least according to the ground-breaking ceremony held on Tuesday.

According to Rooftop, the venue, set to be constructed at the Band Shell in the Harare Gardens, will cost an estimated $200 000.

The venue, which is a result of the partnership between Rooftop Promotions and the Harare City Council, is said to have been modelled from the Dare/Enkundleni concept where the community gathers together to discuss and resolve issues openly.

Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony at the venue, Rooftop Promotions director Ray Mawerera said the construction of the venue was the beginning of a journey in their quest to promote the arts industry in the country.

“Theatre in the Park had become the smallest yet busiest theatre venue in the country, growing itself into the nerve centre of professional theatre in Zimbabwe and playing a pivotal role in tours of plays from other African and European countries,” Mawerera said.

He said it was always going to be difficult for Rooftop Productions to integrate traditional and futuristic aesthetics in the small space at the old venue, hence the decision to construct a purpose-built structure, which is set to become the first of its kind.

“We are building it to international standards, with state-of-the-art facilities. We expect it to hold at least 30 shows a year as it opens up new opportunities for the creative artist in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mawerera said the venue would offer, among other things, live-streaming of shows, guaranteed regional, continental and global premieres, free rehearsal space for Harare acts and child-minding services to theatre-going parents.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said the new venue had a come at an opportune time when the municipality was promoting Destination Harare and would go a long way in promoting the City of Harare as a centre of excellence for theatre lovers.

“Brand Harare is going to benefit immensely as I am told international performing artistes are willing to come to Zimbabwe to showcase their talent in the proposed building,” he said.

Manyenyeni noted that artistes played a critical role in promoting inclusivity, democracy and also provided solutions to the socio and economic problems affecting the country as they used art to express themselves and portray the ideal world they wanted to live in.

He said artistes groomed at the new venue should be brand ambassadors for the city and the country, adding that they should be inclusive and venture into high-density suburbs in search of talent.

Collaborative efforts have often yielded the best results as compared to individual efforts and one hopes each party’s weaknesses in this union between Rooftop Promotions and the city fathers are corrected by the other for a sustainable product.

Only then can you, dear thespian, hope to munch and gulp again before reviewing another new production.

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