On Monday 27 January 2020, the Windybrow Arts Centre, a division of the Market Theatre Foundation will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Johannesburg Awakening Minds/J.A.M.
Johannesburg Awakening Minds or JAM are a group of formerly homeless men and women who through Shakespeare and poetry and classes in acting and voice have managed to improve their lives and gain employment. The Windybrow Arts Centre located in Hillbrow will be the home of JAM for the next three years.
JAM was founded in 2012 by award winning actress Dorothy Ann Gould. JAM teaches through voice, breathing, physical warmups, creative writing exercises, painting sessions and emotional release work.
An astonishing thing began to occur, and very quickly too, within weeks – each individual’s self – respect, dignity and humanity began to return. Instead of begging at traffic lights they started reciting Shakespeare at traffic lights ; they found that Macbeth, King Lear, Richard the Third and Titus were speaking about their pain and that the plays were huge receptacles that could hold all of the emotions that they needed to release , in a safe context – the rage, the feelings of abandonment; they began to flex again their intellectual muscle, to debate, have opinions and to become a team that support each other and watch each other’s backs, not only on the streets, but on stage. The numbers soared to 40 people.
In August 2013, they performed for the first time at The Arts Alive Launch Luncheon.
In November 2013, they performed at Space.com at the Johannesburg Theatre and in December, at PopArt, Arts on Main. Then in December 2019, JAM became homeless and needed to desperately find a new space from which they could work. The Market Theatre Foundation responded to their rallying call and offered JAM a three-year residency at the Windybrow Arts Centre.
“It was the right thing to do. JAM is a unique South African theatre company. Founded and located in the surrounds of the Windybrow Arts Centre, it was the right thing to do to bring them home to the Windybrow Arts Centre”, says Ismail Mahomed, the CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.
Supported by the Windybrow Arts Centre’s administrative team, Jam will be provided with marketing support and technical support. JAM will also be allocated a season in one of the Market Theatre venues for an annual showcase.
“We want the Windybrow Arts Centre to take JAM to new heights through this partnership. We would like to see JAM make their debut on the festival circuit next year with performances either at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda or the Pan African Creative Exchange in Bloemfontein”, said Mahomed.
The Windybrow Arts Centre will also continue to work with the St George’s Anglican Church Parkview and St Michael’s in Bryanston, who for the past 20 years, have provided tea, sandwiches and biscuits for the homeless every Monday, and a hot cooked meal on a Friday.
It was June Jardien who reached out to Dorothy Ann Gould to try her hand at providing skills training in drama to the homeless but with a specific focus on uplifting and improving the individuals’ communication and social skills. This request was welcomed by the award winning actress because she had few encounters with people at traffic lights who were desperate just to be “seen” instead of being ignored or feared.
“I always hoped to be hearing their stories in order to make sense of my own voice as a citizen of South Africa”, said Dorothy Ann Gould.
In 2014, JAM they performed for the Shakespeare Society of SA. JAM also performed four times on Classic FM, again at Space.com and for the Gala Banquet of The Mzansi International Culinary Festival at the Civic Centre Mayor’s Banquet.
“We are ecstatic to be able to offer JAM a new home at the Windybrow Arts Centre. The partnership will allow the wonderful work that has been cultivated over the years to continue within the area of its inception. This is most valuable to the participants the initial objectives of the programme. We look forward to working together and creating”, added Keitu Gwangwa the Head of the Windybrow Arts Centre