We are a peaceful and culture-loving bunch. I refer to those like myself who, in some form or another, are involved in the arts. I am also thinking of those members of the public who are even more critical than all the actors, producers, directors and stagehands.
This week a man shot randomly at the audience at Hillbrow Theatre in an attempt to recover his cellphone, which had allegedly been stolen. This criminal had interrupted the show and grabbed the microphone, threatening to shoot everyone if his device was not returned to him. His rampage ended with him senselessly killing one person, injuring more than eight others and traumatising a whole lot more.
I can only imagine the confusion that must have reigned during this horrific act, as productions are always looking for ways to grab the audience’s attention. There were probably people who thought that this was part of the show, and they must have tried to reconcile how this scene fit into the script.
The arts, especially theatrical productions, should be exactly what the theatre’s statement issued after the incident says: a place of safety, healing and upliftment. Theatres are sacred and creative spaces that are reserved for only the best of what our society has to offer. This is where we are educated, entertained, enthralled and intrigued.
Ironically, this is also the place where we retrospect and see what our most social ills are, and as we all know, violence is one of these. There are a number of not only theatrical productions, but musical renditions, paintings, carvings, drawings and other creative means that reflect just how fierce we have become.
Each time I think about the number of times the family and I go out to establishments, such as the Market Theatre, National Children’s Theatre, the Joburg Theatre, Soweto Theatre, I see just how serious this heinous act is.
Whether it is a sculpture in a park or a charcoal drawing as part of an exhibition in a gallery, or even a television production, there is always a motive behind it. So for this gentleman to have gone into a theatre and shot people spits in the collective face of all those who are using the arts to ensure that we are a better people.
Now, thanks to him, there are people who will not dare step into any theatre, never mind the Hillbrow Theatre, which is already regarded as an undesirable part of Jozi. What this idiot does not know is just how resilient the arts community is, and this will make us stronger, something he will need to be while he rightfully serves time behind bars for hopefully a really long time.
Long live artistic spaces of safety, healing and upliftment. Long live the theatre, a place of safety, healing and upliftment. The theatre, a place of safety, healing and upliftment.