Bay thes­pian to di­rect in Ger­many

● Ed­u­cat­ing young through the­atre a call­ing for award-win­ner Zweni

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Arts & Entertainment - Za­man­dulo Malonde mal­on­[email protected]­soblack­star.co.za

For Port El­iz­a­beth play­wright and ac­tor Xabiso Zweni 2018 was the year to reap the fruit of his labour and, although he al­ready has plans for 2019, he feels it was too “big” a year to sur­pass as yet.

Since de­liv­er­ing his first-ever per­for­mance in grade 9 at Vic­to­ria Park High School 17 years ago, Zweni has over the years qui­etly and con­sis­tently grown into one of PE’s most in­flu­en­tial ac­tors and ac­tivists in the drama and the­atre space.

Zweni trav­els to Ger­many in Fe­bru­ary to be­gin prepa­ra­tions for a play he will be di­rect­ing for Hes­sis­ches Lan­desTheater Mar­burg (Hes­sian State The­atre in Mar­burg) from May.

“The story teaches the young and old about how to be happy with the lit­tle that a per- son has, and that fam­ily means more than any ma­te­ri­al­is­tic pos­ses­sions,” Zweni said.

“I’ll be there for two weeks in Fe­bru­ary to meet the ac­tors and in­tro­duce them to the script and then re­turn for the full re­hearsal and per­for­mance in April and May, “Zweni said.

He will re­turn home in June to take his play So What, Sara­fina!? – along with its ac­tors from the Masi­funde Learner De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme – to the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val in Makhanda (for­merly Gra­ham­stown).

He joined the pro­gramme – an ini­tia­tive which helps pupils from Walmer town­ship with tu­tor­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and life skills – in 2016 as the drama cu­ra­tor for the pro­gramme’s Academy of Cre­ativ­ity.

The cre­ation of So What, Sara­fina!? is just one of many Zweni achieve­ments which made 2018 for him as it sold out at both the PE Opera House and the Savoy The­atre.

The Stage­world The­atre alum­nus re­ceived recog­ni­tion from Eastern Cape de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism MEC Os­car Mabuyane for his ex­cel­lence in the­atre writ­ing and di­rect­ing at the prov­ince’s En­ter­tain­ment Stars Awards in East Lon­don.

Other high­lights for 2018 in­cluded hav­ing his play Let’s Make Ubuntu per­formed by young Ger­man and South African ac­tors on stages around Port El­iz­a­beth and be­ing in­vited as a key­note speaker to the Na­tional Schools Fes­ti­val ahead of the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val in Makhanda.

He was also the re­cip­i­ent of a Fruits of Democ­racy award in the arts and cul­ture cat­e­gory in 2018.

“I trav­elled to Ger­many with about 15 young South African ac­tors to col­lab­o­rate with 15 more from Ger­many in 2017, so last year the Ger­man ac­tors came to PE to show­case what we had put to­gether,” he said.

Zweni has been trav­el­ling be­tween South Africa and Ger­many since 2014 as part of an ex­change pro­gramme which de­vel­ops young ac­tors.

Although the self-pro­claimed “son of the­atre” has col­lected nu­mer­ous awards, he still re­mem­bers his first-ever ac­co­lade.

“I re­ceived my first ev­er­award in 2006 while I was fresh and still do­ing my first year of the­atre col­lege, for the Most Promis­ing Ju­nior Per­former in The Her­ald Show­time Awards,” he said.

Zweni was born in Som­er­set East but grew up in KwaDwesi in Port El­iz­a­beth, at­tend­ing Mafini Pri­mary School and later Vic­to­ria Park High School

“I did my first play in grade 9 and that’s where the love for the­atre and drama grew – and I never looked back,” he said.

He ma­tric­u­lated in 2005 and fur­thered his stud­ies in the­atre and drama at Stage­world The­atre from 2006.

Back then, his hopes were set strictly on be­com­ing a fa­mous ac­tor, but he would later dis­cover the uni­verse had slightly dif­fer­ent plans.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was to act, but as time went by I saw there were a lot more peo­ple who looked up to and were in­spired by what I do, so much so that I re­alised that if I did not use this gift to give back to my com­mu­nity then I will be let­ting my­self and my com­mu­nity down.

“I had just hoped that I’d be on TV and that would be it, but life took an­other turn. I learned that the­atre was the call­ing I would use to share in­for­ma­tion, di­rect and men­tor young peo­ple,” Zweni said.

His work with the youth serves as his ex­ter­nal source of in­spi­ra­tion while he mo­ti­vates him­self from the in­side.

“I al­ways tell my learn­ers that their great­est in­spi­ra­tion comes from the in­side, but my source of in­spi­ra­tion is the de­sire to en­sure that those kids be­come bet­ter peo­ple in soci- ety. I am in­spired by their smiles, en­thu­si­asm and the ju­bi­la­tion they dis­play after a suc­cess­ful per­for­mance.”

Hav­ing said that, how­ever, col­lect­ing an­other award for di­rect­ing is on Zweni’s men­tal list of goals for the year.

I did my first play in Grade 9 and that’s where the love for the­atre and drama grew

Pho­to­graph: LONDEKA DLAMINI

AC­CO­LADES: Bay play­wright Xabiso Zweni

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