Jean-Pierre Lesch, 26-year-old Academy Director at the West Coast Academy of Performing Arts (WAPA) wants to take the arts to the Cape and West Coast and equip young would-be performers with the knowledge and skill-set to turn their talents into lucrative careers.

WAPA is a registered non-profit company that was officially started in 2013 and has ten members who teach young people various aspects of the arts, from music, dance, acting, puppetry, literacy, movement, theatre and costume design and various other arts-related skills.

Run unofficially from Observatory, Cape Town, WAPA is still looking for an appropriate operating space and needs funding for this endeavour. Their main aim it to teach young people how to become successful performers and they hope to one day become an accredited arts academy.

“We want to teach young performing artists, who may not have been able to afford to study at UCT, the basics of drama and other performance skills. From how to approach an audition, voice projection, movement, how to learn and perform a monologue and even behind-the-scenes proficiencies, like make-up are covered.”

“Our main aim is to equip young people, especially young students, with the skills to get into the industry and find registered agencies to join to help them find jobs in the field. Students pay a small fee for these skills and always, at the very least, walk away with a certificate of attendance as proof that they’ve done some work in the industry.”

WAPA also has an after-school programme, the WAPA Youth Programme (WYP) for grade 11 and 12 learners run by Baheeya Du Plessis, who is in charge of Internal Literature Reviewing and facilitation at WAPA. The programme is run from Monday to Friday.

“WAPA creates its own productions and uses the learners for various aspects of putting the production together in order for them to learn about performance creations and the business behind the industry. This will equip learners to make a living out of the arts.”

Getting to know ‘J.P’
Born and bred in Saint Helena Bay, J.P came to the Cape in 2009 to study after matric and after getting rejected at the University of Cape Town (UCT) decided to study Performing Arts at the New Africa Theatre Academy (NATA).

“I was born and raised in Saint Helena Bay and only after matric did I come to Cape Town to study. When I applied to UCT, to do a Diploma in Performing Arts, I didn’t actually know that I needed to go for an audition, and thus got rejected. This is one of the things that WYP wants to teach learners: how to approach an audition and actually wow the judges.”

“Many of the people I studied with at NATA work with me on the programme, and since NATA is no longer in operation, what we actually want to do is create something very similar, a performance college of sorts.”

“Next I studied Public Administration at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in order to learn about governmental operations and how to obtain funds from government for a project you want to run.”

In order to establish WAPA as a sustainable programme, Lesch Antics Productions was established in order to handle the business side of the organisation and register WAPA as a non-governmental company.

“Last year I got myself an agent and I’m back into acting. I worked on a project called Escape, which is a short film I wrote for WAPA and I’m currently working on a play called Five Sisters. In March of this year, a play I wrote, that was directed by Abdullatief Davids, called Dirty Laundry was showcased at the Baxter Golden Arrow studio, which was great”

WAPA can be found on Facebook at Lesch Antics Productions-WAPA or you can check out their website here. Being an NGO, WAPA needs all the funding they can get, get in contact with them and find out more about this fantastic organisation.