CASSIDY BESSA AND SAM MUKWAMU
It’s that time of the year where the Kopanong Student Arts Festival is upon us once again. The festival will take place from 22 to 27 of July 2019, and is hosted by the drama department. The aim of the week long festival is to showcase young artists in performing arts such as theatre productions and short films. This exciting event promises to have an amazing and diverse lineup. Plays such as, Black is Beautiful, Nomme, The Magnificent 7 and Pynk Lipstick will be performed throughout the week, with most shows having at most three performances. The shows are relatable to students and highlight some very important issues that currently form our society. PDBY spoke to the director of Pynk Lipstick, Madzanga Sikhitha, who was able to clarify exactly what you can expect from the festival.
1) Many of the performances that will be shown on stage seem to be about very hard hitting and important topics, such as those dealing with mental health and unemployment. How important is it that there is diversity within your festival?
I think diversity is very important, because our festival-goers are from varying backgrounds, and it’s important that when they come to this festival they see themselves represented, and they see their issues put up onstage. Also, not just for our goers, but also for our artists to be able to have a platform where they can have their issues that are essential to their hearts or that are close and important to them to be showcased at a festival like this.
2) The festival is marketed incredibly well, and one can see that lots of time was put in to create the extensive programme. How did you find the planning of this event and how long did it take?
In terms of marketing it was a bit of a stretch, because I believe that we didn’t really have as much time as we liked to really get the word out. But I found that our marketing was very enthusiastic though. So, we just went about the business of spreading the word as best as we could. In terms of planning as directors, and even as the department, because Kopanong is a department kind of festival, everything kind of stops when Kopanong happens. There are no lectures that happen, so as a department I think we all tried our best to really put the work in. Our directors start working on their shows maybe two, three months ahead of time. We have first years who help us with tech, you know, moving sets around on stage. Because some Kopanong artists are showcasing their shows for exams, depending on which year we’re at, [the lecturers] will come in and help us with constructive criticism for our shows.
3) The festival includes physical theatre, comedy and musical theatre and aims to show off individual artists’ talents. How do you make sure that the performances are ones that are not only interesting to an audience, but that also allow the artist freedom of expression?
I really believe that Kopanong as a festival, as a brand, really takes pride in the fact that they put an artists’ expression above all else. There is not really much that is not allowed. Obviously there are things that you can’t say, like hate speech. They’re very passionate about letting artists say what they need to say, and give them the platform that they need. The process of getting the artists to have this space to express themselves is easily available.
4) Your festival includes students from UP, Oakfields, TUT, UCKR as well as other, independent artists. As your performances are geared to a young audience (or those young at heart), how do you make sure that the performances are geared at your target audience?
I don’t think it’s ever been a problem. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of the festival goers are young people, and many of the people that do come to Kopanong are young people themselves. So, many of the students that do come from TUT and Oakfields are around the same age as us, so second year, third year and honours, so I think it’s easier for them to relate to us and be able to spread their message without it being difficult on their part.
5) The festival is a place for up and coming writers, performers and directors to show their talent in a professional setting. What do you hope these young artists will get out of this experience?
I really hope young artists are given the opportunity to explore with their art. I think that is the most important thing about Kopanong. It gives young directors a chance to establish themselves in the world and they get to really just play around with what they want their image to look like. It’s a very free space. So, not only does it allow people to perfect their craft, but it’s also just a safety net for people to be able to make their mistakes, but also move on. I hope artists are able to learn, but also to just explore and have fun with the process.
6) You are the director of Pynk Lipstick, one of the plays being performed. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the play and what it is about?
Pynk Lipstick is about two girls who have a romantic past, and one of them is an up and coming theatre performer, the other one is a chemistry graduate. The chemistry graduate comes all the way to come see her ex-girlfriend’s show after two years of them not communicating. The whole paly is centred around finding out what this girl’s intentions are and them trying to unearth what lead to their breakup, because it was never specifically stated why, so it’s more about closure. [The show] really delves into topics like how women in same sex relationships get to navigate femininity and love, and the claim to womanhood.
7) As the director of such a production, how did you find the process of directing the play? Was it easy to work with the artists?
In terms of working with my cast, it has been an amazing experience. I’m working with people who are very talented, very eager to get a name for themselves, but also people who truly understand my vision as a director and want to help me bring that to life. In terms of putting together a script and making an executive decision on a script it was so stressful. It is so, so stressful. I think as a drama student myself, it’s fun for when you’re the actor, if something is not working out you can kind of step aside and look to your director to figure it out. But when you’re the director it’s on you and it has to be done right there and then.