PTA theatre apologises for banning LGBTQ-affirming children’s show


The Drizzles puppet show promotes LGBTQ inclusion

After almost a year of mediation, a Pretoria theatre has apologised for cancelling performances of a children’s puppet show that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusion.

In October last year, we reported that Pierneef Theater owner Jopie Koen told Marco Du Plessis, the creator of Drizzles, that two planned performances of the show would not go ahead because she’d received a complaint from a longstanding patron.

In a statement from her lawyers, Koen said that “The Pierneef Theatre’s stance is unashamedly that children who attend the theatre, specifically the target audience of between three and ten years old, shall not be exposed to any performances with a sexual element and/or undertone.”

Drizzles has no sexual content, however. It features Zinzi the gay Zebra, who is shunned by Toni the Tiger because she is different. It also includes two human characters, Freddy and Rajesh, who are depicted as a happily married same-sex couple.

Du Plessis and a number of other complainants took the matter to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which sought to resolve the discrimination dispute with the theatre through meditation.

The process dragged on for months, causing Du Plessis to pull out of the mediation because of the toll it was taking on his mental health. The other complainants continued with the process and the matter was finally resolved last month.

In a media statement dated 22 September (but only discovered by MambaOnline this week) the Pierneef Theatre retracted its 2020 statement regarding the cancellation, “unconditionally and in its totality”.

In particular, the theatre retracted the comment that referred to “performances with a sexual element and/or undertone.” Koen acknowledged that this was “particularly inappropriate, in that this phrase could be misconstrued to indicate that the theatre was hypersexualising the LGBT community – which was not its intent.”

The theatre said it “apologises for the use of the phrase [and] accepts that it was misguided and likely to be hurtful.”

The Pierneef further apologised “for the decision not to allow the Drizzles production to be performed at the theatre and the harm and strife that resulted from this decision.”

The theatre also agreed to host a Diversity Celebration Festival on 23, 24 and 25 September that included LGBTQ-themed shows.

We contacted Du Plessis for a response to the theatre’s apology but he declined to comment on the subject. One of the other complainants told MambaOnline that while the mediation was protracted, “I feel that it was a good outcome overall.”

Drizzles’ newest show is called What’s in a name? Dressing as My Hero and aims to affirm gender-questioning children. It will be performed as part of the Vrystaat Arts Festival this month.

“Shows with LGBTQ content can be a catalyst for opening conversations with your children, it can also be the one show your child relates with,” says Du Plessis.

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