Rust Co-Operative is a Cape Town based independent theatre company, founded and managed by Philip Rademeyer and Penny Youngleson. We caught up with them recently to find out about their day job and upcoming shows.
Between 10and5: Please let us know your official (or unofficial) job title.
Rust Co-Operative: We’re the co-founders, producers and creative directors (and coffee-makers) at Rust Co-Operative.
10and5: What and where did you study?
Penny: I studied a BDram at Stellenbosch University, majoring in scriptwriting and cabaret; then went on to do an Honours in Theatre Directing and a Masters at UCT in Theatre Making (writing, directing and producing new work), where I specialised in gendered representations of so-called “white”, English-speaking females in the post-Apartheid context in South Africa, and their performance of the everyday.
Philip: I did a BA (with a dual focus on Psychology and Theatre) at Ohio Wesleyan University in the US – I came back to South Africa and decided I wanted to pursue theatre so I did my Honours in Drama, followed by a Masters in Theatre & Performance (Directing) at UCT. My area of focus was the creation of a queer directorial aesthetic.
10and5: How and why was the Rust Co-Operative started?
Rust Co-Operative: Rust Co-Operative was founded over glasses of wine and coffee and lots and lots of talking. We decided we were tired of watching other people do what we were dreaming about and so, with the support and input of friends and family – especially our close friend Ilse Fourie – we just did it. And we’re working it out as we go. As to why, we’re both theatre makers and we’re interested in seeing new works and new adaptations. Both of us are interested in creating work that destabilises concepts of conventional theatre, and that deals with themes that aren’t necessarily addressed on a regular basis.
10and5: What do you love most about your job?
Penny: That sick-tingly feeling you get in your stomach on opening night. That’s pretty exciting. And sleeping well after a performance has been successful. But I hate talking to people after shows, I can never think of anything intelligent to say…it scares me!
Philip: In rehearsal, when something ‘clicks’ between actors, director, text and the space – those moments of clarity and electricity that push a rehearsal process to the next level. And, usually towards the end of a rehearsal process, seeing a newly-created world come to life before my eyes.
10and5: And what’s the part you could do without?
Penny: Applying for funding.
Philip: Driving around to source props, costumes, and other design elements. I hate driving more than fifteen minutes in one go.
10and5: What’s the weirdest task you’ve found yourself doing in the name of your job?
Penny: Sewing a 10 metre tall puppet (meant to represent the “spirit” of Cape Town) made out of purple organza with a 2 metre wide helium balloon head that was meant to float over Adderley Fountains as part of the 2009 Infecting the City Festival. It was axed, in the end, because Brett Bailey (ITC festival curator that year) told me it looked like an enormous erection. Weird…and harsh.
Philip: There’s no one particularly weird task that stands out. When doing research for a play or when finding references for costume and design, you have to explore a variety of things you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in – for my current production I found myself trawling local classifieds sites for cheap stilts, whilst finding designers who put men in women’s clothing, whilst also googling “kitsch Mother Mary” alongside “postcoital fallen angel” in the early hours of the morning.
10and5: Is there anything that working in your particular industry has taught you that you didn’t already know?
Rust Co-Operative: Well, there’s industry-specific know-how like teching a theatre, but mostly it teaches you the same lessons that any entrepreneurial venture does: work hard, be honest, be kind to other people and make a product that reflects your brand and yourself.
10and5: Is Rust Co-Operative primarily a platform to get your own work out there or are you open to producing shows for other writers/directors?
Rust Co-Operative: A bit of both, really. We started Rust Co-Operative so that we could showcase our own work, it’s true, but we’re specifically a co-operative (as opposed to a company or collective) – ergo we are an association of people who cooperate for their mutual social, economic and cultural benefit. So, whilst we maintain joint ownership and creative control of the company, collaboration is a major cornerstone of what we do. And we’re absolutely open to working with other writers, technicians, designers and performers – and do, regularly.
10and5: What goes into producing a show independently from start to finish?
Rust Co-Operative: Tell us..we want a check list!
Each show has its own to-do list. But, generally, it’s about getting your money in (so checking funding cycles, approaching investors and generating income through other creative outputs), putting together running budgets, organising rehearsal and performance venues, choosing or writing a script, auditioning, casting, rehearsing, marketing, media canoodling, set building, costume designing and making, prop sourcing, rehearsing-rehearsing-rehearsing, opening nights, hustling to fill seats, closing nights and packing it all up… only to start again in a couple of days time.
10and5: Do you do it all yourselves?
Rust Co-Operative: We’re a young company, so we do most of it ourselves. Like we said, we enjoy collaborating as much as possible… but we also have a very strict policy on favours and asking people to do stuff for free. We value our own work and we’d like to think we respect our colleagues enough to value their work by paying them fairly. But for now, we are doing most of it ourselves.
10and5: You have a double bill of shows coming up. Please tell us about them and where people can see them:
Rust Co-Operative: The first show is called Expectant and it’s a young woman’s conversation-stains as both performer and character trying to make sense of herself as she realises her short life amounts to little more than a series of unrealistic expectations and disappointments. It stars the inimitable Rebecca Makin-Taylor and showcases the sonic mastery of Ben and Joanie Ludik (of Invisible Nightclub fame); and it was written, designed and directed by Penny. Expectant runs in the Intimate Theatre (37 Orange Street) from 23 – 27 May at 8pm.
Lie, written, directed and designed by Philip – with Stefan Erasmus, Jaco Nothnagel and Danieyella Rodin – shows at the Intimate Theatre (37 Orange Street) from 30 May – 3 June at 8pm. Lie climbs into the mind of a young queer boy, Anna Jones, as he reconstructs his life – from fleeing an abusive home, to engaging in prostitution, to becoming entangled in the lives of a married couple. Through snapshots of Anna’s life, Lie interrogates queer selfhood, loss and belonging, and notions of family and home.
For bookings and further information on either show, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on twitter or facebook; or for a more in-depth insight into our process check out our blog at www.rustcooperative.tumblr.com.
10and5: You’ve just got home from Prague. Can you tell us a bit about your time there?
Rust Co-Operative: It was incredible. We were speaking (independently) at a Feminities and Masculinities conference held in Prague, with international delegates from all over the world. Prague is beautiful – palaces, cobblestone streets, lush parks and forests and breathtaking architecture everywhere. It also has great theatre and a fabulous nightlife. The public transport is reliable and cheap, and so is the beer (which was not much use for wine-lovers like ourselves).
10and5: Do you think it’s more or less difficult to do what you do in South Africa as opposed to the States, the UK or Europe?
Rust Co-Operative: Theatre is difficult anywhere – in some countries it might be easier to get funding because they have the kind of infrastructure and emphasis on arts and culture that promotes independent artists and companies. But we live here, and we want to work here.
10and5: Any advice to aspiring playwrights or theatre directors?
Penny: Keep on writing and crafting and promoting your work. Make your own opportunities by being willing to put in long hours and do thankless jobs. Every experience will help you to grow as an artist. Especially the bad ones! And work on projects that make you happy wherever you can.
Philip: Nobody’s just going to hand you work or creative opportunities – so regardless of the long hours, the personal stresses, or the financial sacrifices you may have to make in the beginning, find a way to get your work on the floor.