The dual focus of Yusrah Bardien’s job is to put more bums on theatre seats and use the arts to help shape a better society.
By ensuring young people are spellbound by the magic of the stage, Bardien can help make live shows a viable and thriving business. She believes young audiences will also benefit from having their horizons broadened by the arts.
As the audience engagement strategist at the Market Theatre Foundation, she is developing audience programmes that allow two-way engagement with patrons. In less than a year, she has organised two conferences with international partners and instigated a conversation programme called Let’s Talk Ideas, which values input from the audience as much as it does from experts. The programme has covered topics like the choice of shows for the theatre’s three stages.
She has set up her own consultancy, Creative Fix, to support arts companies and individuals in pursuit of a more effective industry, and has presented at national and international conferences on audience development and the arts in South Africa.
She is interested in how arts education and exposure to different forms of culture can be used to stimulate younger people. “One of the best by-products of the arts is teaching key practical and critical thinking skills through play, and people who participate in the arts have been able to apply the discipline and thinking patterns successfully in different fields of work,” she says. “Too many life-changing, brilliant, and beautiful creative products offer solutions to current and future problems in society, expressed in an accessible way — yet go unnoticed. Yet when politics goes into crisis, society turns to its poets, musicians or writers for guidance.”
“We have a responsibility to future generations to build a world where a creative approach is the norm, not the exception.”
Bardien was previously the marketing manager for ASSITEJ SA, an umbrella body for children’s theatre. She has worked on many theatre festivals and international arts exchange projects including France-South Africa Seasons and SA-UK Seasons.
She was also privileged to be involved in managing the artist programmes at Nelson Mandela’s state and Qunu funerals, and at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral. — Lesley Stones