In her welcome foreword to this year’s festival guide, director of the US Woordfees in Stellenbosch, Saartjie Botha, points to the political dilemmas in the country and how that sometimes detracts from art festivals. But she’s optimistic. “The world of the arts is a gentler place,” she says. “It is confrontational sometimes — and it should be — but it is a world focused on humanity ... and finally creates understanding and empathy for that humanity.” The University of Stellenbosch Woordfees, the annual arts festival with books as its heartbeat, runs from March 1 to 10 with a programme that has grown through the years, from which theatre has arguably benefited most. The festival needs a growing programme, but so do the audiences to get them thinking and talking. Right or wrong, arts festivals have become a lifeline for artists, and for many, one of the few times they have the opportunity to exercise their craft. Apart from an extensive discourse programme which covers anything from t...

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