Faculty member Megan Lewis is much more than a professor- she‚Äôs a thespian, a historian, an advocate for human rights, and now, the winner of the Hiddingh-Currie literary award. As the MV World Odyssey sail closer to her home country of South Africa, Lewis provides lots of insight on the country‚Äôs arts and culture.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been following South African theatre for 20 plus years now,‚Äù Lewis said. ‚ÄúOne of the theatre companies I‚Äôve always been totally drawn to was the Magnet Theatre.‚Äù
Lewis explains how she came to know the Magnet Theatre through the National Arts Festival in South Africa, a festival she now takes students to every year on a study abroad program. A Cape Town-based theatre company, they have been working and performing for the last thirty years.
‚ÄúThey do high-caliber performances, just stunning,‚Äù Lewis said. ‚ÄúWhen you talk about how to tell a story with your body, there‚Äôs nobody that does it better as far as I‚Äôm concerned.‚Äù
Lewis decided to write her book Magnet Theatre: Three Decades of Making Space after talking to the co-artistic director at the theatre and meeting with a colleague who shared the same desire to write a book about it. The book was published in 2016 and was co-edited with her colleague, Anton Krueger.
‚ÄúI wanted to tell the Magnet‚Äôs story only because I felt like it did not get the recognition it needed, despite the fact the co-artistic director is a scholar‚Ä¶ and had written a lot about Magnet, there was no history of Magnet‚Ä¶ and nobody had put it in the context of what was going on in the country during this incredible three-decade period in which they‚Äôve been operating and working,‚Äù Lewis said.
Lewis and Krueger collaborated with nine different scholars who brought different perspectives on the Magnet‚Äôs work and curated 16 interviews with people who had worked with the Magnet in various capacities. The book consists of these as well as three different photos essays containing a photo for every piece of theatre created by the Magnet.
‚ÄúWe called it ‚ÄòMaking Space‚Äô because we believe they make space for several things,‚Äù Lewis said. ‚ÄúThey make space for collaboration, community and conversation that is supposed to be happening in the culture. So all of their work is speaking to the issues that are relevant and important.‚Äù
Lewis‚Äô book on the Magnet Theatre recently won the Hiddingh-Currie award, an award given by UNISA Press every year to the best piece of scholarly work in the country. The criteria for the award states the book should illuminate social issues or illuminate the discipline being written about. In Lewis‚Äô case, her book does both.
‚ÄúIn writing the history of Magnet, you are writing the history of South Africa in the transition,‚Äù Lewis said. ‚ÄúTo me, that was the best part. I believe theatre is about speaking to the moment that it‚Äôs being created in, I believe it‚Äôs about speaking truth to power; it‚Äôs about reimagining our world. It‚Äôs about all these gorgeous things.‚Äù