Interviewing Daniel Galloway: ‘Theatres will keep closing if audiences do not help keep them open by attending performances’

Daniel Galloway

We chat with How Now Brown Cow’s General Manager and Co-Producer Daniel Galloway ahead of the Cape Town release of The Beauty of Queen Leenane. Daniel has produced over 150 theatrical productions both locally and internationally, which collectively have received over 220 award nominations.

After almost a decade at the helm of the Fugard Theatre, most of Daniel’s time is spent as General Manager for How Now Brown Cow, a dynamic production company.

Benn Ndzoyiya: Tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to go into the arts

Daniel Galloway: I fell in love with theatre completely by mistake in 1998 when I spent a year away from home after matriculating in Pretoria. I remember very clearly sitting in an unexpected performance of a musical in London (as I chaperoned some primary school children from a school I was working at) and as soon as the lights went down, my skin was inexplicably covered in goosebumps and my throat was filled with a lump. I might not have known it at that precise moment, but that is when it all began for me.

The Fugard Theatre was a rich chapter in Cape Town’s arts and tourism community and you’ve overseen a ton of productions. Are there any highlights that you’re particularly proud of or shows that stand out for you?

Daniel Galloway: The closure of The Fugard Theatre, which was such an extraordinary gift to South Africans, still touches my heart when I am reminded of it – which is pretty much every day. I am very proud of the work that the team and I produced while the theatre operated from 2010 to 2020. I was devastated, as no doubt so many were, when the theatre was not able to fly and flourish as I know it would have under the newly appointed management when I stepped away in January of that final year.

There are naturally too many highlights to mention but productions like Kat & The Kings, The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story, Kinky Boots, The Road To Mecca, Master Harold and the Boys, King Kong and Cabaret were special in their own ways. We were ALL incredibly lucky to have The Fugard when we did, and its closure a shared loss too.

Daniel Galloway
Daniel Galloway photographed by Jesse Kramer

You now run your own consulting firm which includes mentorship, training and management. Was it a natural decision for you to go at it on your own, especially with the reputation you’ve built over the years?

Daniel Galloway: I had decided towards the end of 2019 that The Fugard needed new, fresh energy to drive it into its next decade. I was keen to change the rhythm of my daily routine which would allow me to spend some more time with my precious family.

And so, with that combination – and working with the team at The Fugard – I stepped away as Managing Director and Lead Producer of The Fugard very early in 2020. I was immensely proud to hand the theatre over to the new management team who had worked so brilliantly, and so passionately for almost a decade leading up to that moment.

How did How Now Brown Cow come about, and at which point did you get involved?

Daniel Galloway: Julie-Anne McDowell, the Founder of HNBC, called me on the day that a press release went out announcing me stepping away from The Fugard.

It was a delightful call to receive as I sat in an Uber ride home following an otherwise bittersweet final meeting I had just come out of. HNBC was a strong idea in Julie-Anne’s mind and I was immediately drawn to her very obvious passion for creating new and meaningful work for and from the South African industry. I immediately agreed to work with her and to find ways to make her vision find a footing in South Africa and beyond.

Can you share more background about How Now Brown Cow Writer’s Collective that ran during the shut-down of 2020 and 2021?

Daniel Galloway: The HNBC Writer’s Collective was born out of Covid and the shut down the Pandemic required and enforced. 12 new, first draft scripts came from those efforts over that time in what was a rich period of creation for our writers and mentors over the 12 month period. Several of the scripts are in further development and the first production of one of them – Greg Homann’s A MARRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS, has been announced as the Market Theatre’s end of year offering which HNBC is co-producing with them.

It is always a special kind of thrill seeing new work, created from scratch, find its way to the stage. I am super excited to see how this brilliant, new, South African comedy will land with our audiences in JHB at the end of the year.

What is the state of theatre culture in Cape Town right now and how can we get more seats filled?

Daniel Galloway: The elusive holy grail! Obviously the industry, along with others, has taken a serious knock. My experience of the “state of theatre in Cape Town” before the Pandemic was that we were struggling to find audiences to fill our theatres. So coming out of that now, and trying to recover, is even harder.

Having said that – there is sign of life and I guess if we keep offering world-class work at (relatively speaking) incredibly affordable prices, audiences will in time venture away from the safety of their indoor lives and find their way back to theatres across the City. Theatres will keep closing, sadly, if audiences do not help keep them open by attending performances whenever they can.

Daniel Galloway interview
Jennifer Steyn in The Beauty of Queen Leenane

Can you give our readers a bit of insight into The Beauty of Queen Leenane 

Daniel Galloway: The Beauty Queen of Leenane is, simply put, a theatrical masterpiece. Written by someone who is obviously insanely gifted as a writer of plays and films. Martin McDonagh’s play moves us from comfort to discomfort in a matter of moments where we catch ourselves wondering why we responded to something in the way we did.

The play is a sensational vehicle for the remarkable talent we have playing in it. The cast would easily hold their own anywhere in the world and audiences are truly lucky to have the chance to see them all gather together to present this dark comedy as brilliantly as they do. We can say with confidence, following the Johannesburg season last year and the flowing, overwhelmingly strong critical and audience acclaim – and of course the 5 Naledi Awards the production won, including Best Production of a Play – that audiences are in for a treat.

It is also the first time in a while that a “straight play” will be presented in the 600 seat Pam Golding Theatre at The Baxter, which in itself is rather thrilling to witness and be a part of. I would like to encourage every reader reading this sentence to make an effort to come and see the show, to buy a ticket and help us keep theatre going in Cape Town. The season is so short so do not delay!

What are some of the projects you’re currently busy with, anything we can look forward to?

Daniel Galloway: How Now Brown Cow has a few very exciting productions up our little sleeve, including some very exciting news about a South African Premiere Season for a Musical which has smashed records in London and New York …

Where do you unwind in Cape Town 

Daniel Galloway: I love spending time in the mountains camping with my precious family and small but wonderful circle of dear friends – even in the winter months!

The Beauty of Queen Leenane runs from 2 to 19 August at Baxter Theatre. Tickets can be booked via Webtickets. For information about the show, click here.

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