Lara Foot has become the first female director/CEO to lead the Baxter Theatre Centre, the second-biggest performing arts complex in Cape Town and one of the most respected in South Africa.
One of her first priorities in her job, beginning in December 2009, is to further develop new indigenous works, helping to push South African theatre forward and giving hope to the nation’s young writers and directors.
Giving hope, which Foot excels at, is a theme woven through many of her award-winning plays: “Hope is a very complex concept,” she explains. “I believe people must engage in the society they live in, a society which may well be violent and abusive. For people who have actively engaged with the dark, their capacity to better appreciate the light is enhanced. Only through engaging with darkness can light be experienced; to just hope is naïve.”
Foot’s Karoo Moose, a play that portrays some of the violence that many of South Africa’s young destitute children are exposed to, opened the 2009 South African season of London’s Tricycle Theatre, to critical acclaim. A combination of traditional African storytelling and magic realism, the play portrays a story of survival and growth against the odds.
Closer to home, Foot’s hard-hitting, interactive theatre production Addicted to Life gives hope to Cape Town’s vulnerable teenagers living in townships, encouraging them not to get involved in drugs. By focusing on the choices young people make – and the impact of these choices – rather than on the act of drug-dealing, and by following each performance with a specially-structured workshop, Foot appears to have hit a nerve with her young audience, grabbing their attention in a way that other intervention programmes have failed to achieve. Foot says she has been astounded by the positive reaction from the 20,000 students who have already seen the play.