I recently got an interesting request on Twitter asking me if I’d like to come to Alexandra to watch rehearsals for the upcoming Women’s Theatre Festival in Alexandra. I immediately agreed. The passion of the tweeter, Kerryn Irvin, intrigued me and not being as familiar with Alexandra as I’d like to be I jumped at the opportunity. For the non locals, Alexandra – also known as Alex – is one of Joburg’s most notorious townships, bordering the city’s richest suburb, Sandton.
So off I went to Alex where Kerryn introduced me to the dynamic Ntshieng Mokgoro, organiser of the festival. I got to watch some rehearsals and was inspired by what I saw – young women directors and thespeians passionate about their craft and eager to tell their stories. I witnessed one group rehearse in a streeetside soap shop for their play, Wombman, a musical comedy about abortion. Hectic. Here’s a short video of them –
Rehearsing here are the lovely Pretty Buhle Ngcobo, Mapule Pinky Monyelo along with director / writer Nothemba Sulupha.
After a little persuastion Kerryn de Bruyn agreed to write me a guest post about her experiences with Ntshieng and the Women’s Theatre Festival.
Guest post by Kerryn Irvin
Sometimes you have yourself a little moment… You meet someone and think, “mmmmm – you rock”. And in the outskirts of your mind you hear Jack Nicolson in “As Good As It Gets” saying “you make me want to be a better person”. And a silent, secret sense pops up in the greyness of the reality of your working life that you reminds you that you actually do want to feel more alive, do things… good things… maybe even great things… things you once wanted to do, to be, that you tucked to bed forever ago… but there and then it feels plausible even possible.
I had this feeling when I met Ntshieng Mokgoro. It was before I knew she was the first black woman to win the Standard Bank Young Artists Award for directing, before I heard she had travelled the world with her productions, giving workshops in some countries, and before I knew she burns with a yearning to do what she does outside of the structures of qualifications that tell us what we can and cannot achieve.
I sat next to her at a restaurant table, knowing that she came from Alex, that my crazy and lovely Italian neighbor wanted to photograph her for Alex’s centenary and while my crazy and lovely Italian neighbor spoke briefly on the phone, I turned to Ntshieng and asked her matter of factly… “Are you writing your own material?” As she started nodding yes, I inappropriately grabbed her hand and we had ourselves that little moment because I know how friggin, flippin hectic it is to write, let alone direct a play… actually the former I know a wee bit about because I do some writing myself, hence my appreciation moment… the latter I knew nothing of at all.
Little did I know that Ntshieng and the happenings that happen around her would be powdered with many of these moments. Watching a performance she put on in just two weeks for my crazy and lovely Italian neighbor to photograph, interviewing a string of incredible women who wanted to be part of the Women’s Theatre Festival, watching one of the woman we chose, Nkoto Malybye’s rehearsal, and then another Nothemba Sulupha’s rehearsal, held in a tiny soap shop of all places that I watched with Meruschka.
And then today watching Ntshieng’s rehearsal of her latest piece “Paradise Falls”, which will be included in the festival, encasing the talents of lovely, young actors who are full of life and lost in their role of channeling some character brought to life by Nthsieng’s pen, with one of these moments making me shed a couple of tears. Thank bloody goodness for that first little moment and the many that have come since. My wish is that you may experience some with us at Olive Tree Theatre Production’s Women’s Theatre Festival from 25 to 27 October in the Yarona Mall. Let’s create and build and appreciate together.
For more on the Women’s Theatre Festival and their programme click here.
PS – all pics of Ntshieng above are by Kerryn’s neighbour and festival patron Manuela Accarpio . Check out her blog.