Born Out Of Lockdown - An Interview with Sophie Joans and Dara Beth of Scenes On Screens

Over lockdown, we have had the incredible privilege of connecting with people in the entertainment industry, with whom, we may never have met before. We were so excited to meet (virtually) the creators and curators of Scenes On Screens, Sophie Joans and Dara Beth. These two phenomenal womxn and artists created this interactive platform for performers, creators, and artists to create and premiere work for the digital space.

We had to ask them some more questions to find out how Scenes On Screens was born out of lockdown and what audiences can expect to see from this awesome platform.

(Interview from the perspective of Sophie Joans)

ONE Please tell our readers how Scene’s On Screens began? What was the inspiration?

Late one night in isolation, when theatres began closing, the phrase “The show must go on” kept ringing in my ears. Then the name came to me: Scenes on Screens. The idea was that we could have a platform on Instagram where artists could continue to share their work, witnessed by a live audience. So every day at 8 pm, we hosted an IG Live with artists and performers sharing their stuff - from stand-up comedy, to play readings, to burlesque dances and magic shows.

TWO What type of content does Scenes on Screens curate and produce?

Initially, we hosted Instagram Live shows but we evolved from that platform as it can be a temperamental medium due to connectivity issues. We are now exploring new ways of imagining theatre in a digital space. We release season of short theatre-films on South African Theatre on Demand. The theatre-films echo the essence of theatre: imagination and suspension of disbelief. Season 1 has just come out, and Season 2 comes out on 1 November.

Each Season hosts 4 pieces between 5-15 and comes in various forms: short story readings, Tik-Tok-Esque lip-syncs, stop motion animation, visual poetry and sketches.

THREE What experience do you have working in the performing arts industry? And how has this experience informed your desire to start this platform?

I studied at UCT Drama school and worked at The Alexander Bar & Theatre, where I met Dara as a colleague. What was amazing about that theatre is it was a space for both established theatre makers to experiment with new work, and up-and-coming theatre-makers to have their debut. It made me realise how important it is to make spaces for a diverse range of artists play. And for young artists to get to show their creations alongside their heroes.

FOUR What has been the most important lesson you have learned from starting Scenes On Screens?

Being a curator and producer is a fast-paced, quick-thinking and in the end, rewarded job. Being organised, communicating clearly, and finding solutions and compromises.

FIVE What advice would you give to other young women who also want to start a business?

William Kentridge once told me, "Take your first idea, scrap it. Take your second idea, scrap that too. Your third idea - go with your third idea". I've always kept that thought. When lockdown hit and I didn't know what I would do with my life or how to keep the show going on, making an Instagram page was my third idea.

Sometimes it's the thought you almost dismiss because it seems trivial, that turns out to be a great success!

SIX Did starting a business help keep your creativity alive? Have you been doing anything else to keep your creativity alive?

Absolutely. I think artists are inspired to make by seeing other artists making. Especially during the hard lockdown, having a space where people were experimenting was really inspirational. We both performed pieces we had written on Scenes On Screens Instagram Live, and each have a piece in Season 1 and 2 respectively. Making a space that fuels creativity fuels your own creativity!

Personally, I am working on my first solo show about my Mauritian family and the adventures I had visiting that Island.

SEVEN Your first season of Scenes On Screens has just launched on South African Theatre On Demand? Please tell our readers more about SATOD and how you have collaborated with them?

SATOD is a streaming platform for South African theatre. Dara serves on their board, so we have a connection to them through that.

They are the website that hosts our seasons and viewers can buy tickets and watch seasons on their site.

EIGHT What can viewers expect from this first season of Scenes On Screens, and how can they watch?

The first Season is an exciting bouquet of 4 pieces, by some of SA's favourite names in theatre, as well as by some up-and-coming artists. Jemma Kahn has a lip-sync triptych of some iconic speeches. Maggie Gericke and Sophie Joans stage an audition. Wasabi Hott shares a nostalgic, beautiful visual rap poem. And Jon Keevy will tantalize you with a hilarious erotic fiction...

They can watch it for R60 on SA Theatre on DEMAND.

NINE Scenes On Screens has been set up as an online platform during lockdown, are you planning on continuing operating once theatres reopen?

I think the beauty of Scenes on Screens is that it is rooted in the idea that "the show must go on". And so it is a platform that will evolve depending on what the demand is. I think we have tapped into something special in terms of taking theatre into a digital, social media space. And look forward to seeing where that goes. We currently have a new project in the pipelines that we are really excited about.

TEN What can our viewers look forward to in the future from Scenes On Screens?

Season 2 comes out on 1 November, with 4 pieces created by Terence Makapan, Cassandra Mapanda, Naledi Majola, Dara Beth, Roxy Modricky, Daniel Richards, James Corder and Emma Kotze. And then Season 3 comes out 1 December.

Interview by: Alyssa Harrison and Michaela Tobias (Plug In Theatre Intern)

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