Chief Executive Officer of the Market Theatre Foundation
In Today’s edition of the series marking Women’s Month, focusing on women leaders at the Market Theatre Foundation, CITYLIFE/ARTS editor EDWARD TSUMELE (ET) speaks to Tshiamo Mokgadi, (TM) Chief Executive Officer of the Market Theatre Foundation.
ET: .Congratulations for your recent appointment as the CEO of the Market Theatre. This is a well known path for you as you have been there before at the institution, starting off from a junior position until you became a producer. Any comment?
TM: Yes, indeed. I started out as an 8 month pregnant graduate as a trainee administrator. The MTF had the courage to employ me when some might not have. I’m passionate about the industry and even more so about the administration thereof. So I think it makes sense that my journey – from studies to work experience – has largely centred around planning and administration.
ET. This recent appointment is a big step for you personally in your career in arts administration. But this is also a big inspiration for women in general in the country as they will be able to see that with determination, education and mentorship, it is possible to be recognised even in a male dominated corporate sector. What is your reflection on that statement?
TM: Ku thafu motase (lol). A lot more women need to be recognised beyond being administrators that make things happen without having the necessary influence in decision-making.
ET: .Did the appointment come as a surprise for you as I know that the competition was quite high stakes, with fairly good candidates with good track records in the corporate sector, also wanting the position?
TM: It was a surprise. I almost didn’t apply because I didn’t think I stood a chance. I mean it is the Market Theatre after all and I didn’t doubt that people with more experience than me were going to apply. But, someone close reminded me that I’ve been at it this for just under 15 years. if not now then when? And here I am today.
ET: .Having summoned the courage to apply when the position became available must have taken you sometime to reflect about your chances of success. Tell us about that moment when you decided well, I am going to throw my hat in the ring?
TM: And boy did it take summoning of courage to apply! I had to deeply reflect on my career journey so far and quieten the self-doubt thoughts. I also realised that I actually didn’t have much to lose if I don’t get the job.
ET: .I know it is pretty early as you will probably have to sit down with your management team first before you define your priority for the institution under your leadership. But can you at least give us a sense of what the audiences of the Market Theatre should expect from your leadership in general?
TM: You are correct that I am yet to consult with Council, management and staff to get a sense of where priorities are or where they need to be. However, two objectives are front of mind. 1) Sustainability of the MTF (take care of home base). 2) Bring as many independents as possible along (producers, creatives, technicians, etc.). Different projects that move us towards these two generic objectives will be considered over time.
ET: The position of CEO of the Market Theatre is a position of influence and immense power, and the powers that be must have seen something in you that they felt is what is needed right now to take the Market Theatre Foundation into the future, irrespective of the challenges posed by the coronavirus. What is it that you think they have noticed in you, to say this is our candidate? Any idea?
TM: Hahaha. This feels like me having to blow my own horn… I hope the skills and experience I have gained over the years as well as my track record set me apart from other candidates.
ET: .What are your views on the challenges posed by the current pandemic, Covid-19 with regards to the smooth running of the arts, especially surrounding the uncertainties of theatre in the current situation.
ET: It’s bleak and it is bad and I think it’s going to continue being challenging for the foreseeable future. As a cultural institution I think we really need to cleverly and more strategically use our limited resources to meaningfully support creatives – both through our direct and indirect interventions.
ET. In the meantime any ideas about how theatre and other institutions can subvert the current situation of the coronavirus and the lockdown so that the show as they say, can go on irrespective?
TM: Right now, I don’t think there’s much more beyond offering shows online; debates and webinars; or re-purposing skills found in theatre personnel to produce/offer goods and services that are responsive to our current climate. There are other possibilities for hosting live performances with patrons but those are currently not financially, time or human resource feasible. I think as the pandemic recedes and the virus either gets eradicated or manageable; a lot of our previous and current models of doing business or delivering shows (physical or video) will evolve.