Final New Voices play hits the stage with a message of hope

Final New Voices play hits the stage with a message of hope

Artscape’s New Voices Programme – which serves as a platform for emerging writers in local theatre – kicked off two weeks ago with ‘The Third Force’, written by Nicola Moerman and directed by Rafiek Mammon.

‘Korreltjie Kop Klong is my Dood’, written by Herschelle Benjamin and directed by Sandra Temmingh, is currently on the planks at the Artscape Arena until Saturday, October 20, at 7.30pm nightly.

Next week theatregoers will get to see ‘The Widow’, showing from October 23 to 27.

“The New Voices Programme seeks to give an opportunity to young writers with work that aims to reclaim and restore marginalised aesthetics, content and language in arts and performances with stories that deal with issues of a social, cultural, heritage, identity, gender or language nature, reflecting our diverse society,” says Marlene Le Roux, CEO of Artscape.”

An adaptation of Dr. Nomfundo Mali’s support group reports directed by Siphokazi Jonas, ‘The Widow’ is a series of monologues representing a platform to investigate how widows cope after the loss of their husbands and loved ones.

Jonas holds a Masters degree in English Literature and an undergraduate degree in Drama and English. As a writer, performer, and poet, she has written, produced, and performed in three one-woman poetry shows: ‘Poetry Under the Stars’, ‘Conspiracy Theory’ and ‘Wrestling with Dawn’. In 2016, she produced and performed in a multi-genre theatre production, ‘Around the Fire’, which was staged at the Artscape Spiritual Festival and again at the Women’s Festival at Artscape in August this year. Her experience with “spoken word” has seen her judge poetry slam competitions, as well as perform with renowned musicians.

Peter Tromp caught up with Jonas on the eve of the debut of ‘The Widow’ at the Artscape Arena.

You have perhaps become best known for your one-woman poetry shows. How did you become involved with the Artscape New Voices Programme, directing a team of actors in ‘The Widow? Do you consider the work a departure at all from what you’ve done in the past?

I wouldn’t quite consider this a departure as I have a drama background with a BA in Drama and English and Honours electives in Drama and Theatre education. Although my focus has been on poetry primarily, I had already started making my way back into the theatre scene in 2015 with the Adam Small festival and eventually staged my own production at Artscape. When I was invited to mentor on the New Voices programme last year, it allowed me to draw on both my writing, performance and theatre-making experience.

Tell us about your collaborative effort with Dr Nomfundo Mali: how it came about, how you guys started out and how it evolved during the creative process.

Dr. Mali submitted a series of short stories based on interviews with a group of widows through the Widows’ Empowerment Program. I chose some of the stories which we found to have something truly universal in terms of storytelling and then, along with the cast, we workshopped them into the play, The Widow. The key thing was finding an intersection between the widows’ grief and the cast’s own encounters with loss.  Our story explores the process of grieving and its impact on everyday living.

Now, tell us a little about your cast and how the rehearsal process went. What were the biggest challenges you faced as an ensemble?

This project has proved to be very emotional for all of us; there have been many tears on the rehearsal floor. We are constantly aware about the weight of telling the stories of women who have such deep trauma. It required everyone to be vulnerable in order for us to draw from our own experiences with trauma and the journey to healing. The process of workshopping is quite intensive and demands more involvement from actors than usual. They are key contributors in writing the story as well.

What do you hope people walk away with after having seen ‘The Widow’?

We want widows to be seen and to see themselves. Dr. Mali puts it so well when she says, ‘Widows should reach a point where they are able to define themselves as who they are, instead of whose they are.’ That is foremost in our thinking, we aim to merely be a mirror through this story.

* Tickets are R60 each at Computicket or Artscape Dial-A-Seat.