2015 African Playwrights Festival

 

festival-credits3The Almasi African Playwrights Festival is designed to identify, nurture and develop Zimbabwean writing talent in order to compete on the global stage. The goal is to make this an ongoing process and we welcome partnerships and support in various forms. The month of May saw the dawning of the Almasi African Playwrights Festival. This collaboration of the Ojai Playwrights Conference and Almasi Collaborative Arts saw the development of 3 original plays by 3 local playwrights. From the 11th to the 23rd of May 2015, Robert Egan (Artistic Director of Ojai Playwrights Conference) worked with 3 budding Zimbabwean playwrights, young directors and a group of supporting actors. Mr Egan, together with Stephen Belber (who joined him in the second week) dissected, re-worked and overhauled these original pieces and the results were showcased at the end of the festival.

On Friday the 22nd of May at 5pm, a Panel Discussion was held and the topic of discussion was Zimbabwean Dramatic Writing; Is it Dead? The panel featured prominent voices in the Zimbabwean Arts scene; Leonard Matsa (Chair) – playwright and filmmaker, Rumbi Katedza – film producer and screen writer, Raisedon Baya – playwright, producer and Director of Intwasa Festival, Thandiwe Nyamasvisva- Playwrights Festival participant and Almasi Playwrights Intensive Alumni, and Robert Egan, our Almasi African Playwrights Festival facilitator. The discussion was vibrant, insightful and interactive with the audience having full license to engage and pick the panelist’s brains. On Friday the 22nd of May at 7pm, a staged reading of the first work-shopped piece was held. Relentless by Thandiwe Nyamasvisva, a vibrant piece set in East Harlem, New York, was presented by a diverse cast of five. On Saturday the 23rd of May at 2pm, a staged reading of the second work-shopped piece was held. Master’s Shoe by Gideon Jeph Wabvuta, an intense political piece set in Mbare, was presented by a powerful cast of four. On Saturday the 23rd of May at 7pm, a staged reading of the third work-shopped piece was held. A Midnight Conundrum by Elizabeth Zaza Muchemwa, a plot twisting piece set somewhere in the Union, was presented by a moving cast of three.

 
 


 
 

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IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER
Harare, June 18th 2015

The most important lesson I learnt about playwriting during the Playwright’s Festival is that a play that goes through a rigorous development process can only get better. Under the guidance and help of Robert Egan and Stephen Belber, I watched in delightful surprise as my play continuously improved right until the day of the staged reading. The play I submitted for the festival was a play called ‘Relentless’ which I had used to apply to Juilliard playwright’s program in 2013. I didn’t get into Juilliard so I decided to take advantage of the Playwright’s Festival to further develop this play (and maybe find out why I didn’t get into Juilliard). The play is set in a bar in Harlem and traces the story of Michael, a former philanthropic NYPD policeman and victim of a drive-by shooting who is married to Hope, a Zimbabwean woman. Michael discovers Hope had sex with Jamal, a gang banger…

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The Right Set of Skills
Harare, June 19th 2015

efore I attended Almasi African Playwrights Festival, If I was asked if I could see progress in the space of two weeks, the answer was going to be an unequivocal no. I had been playing and toying with an idea since the beginning of last year. That year ended with a half finished product. At the beginning of this year, that half-finished play had become a play. I even kidded myself into believing that the play was complete. It needed a few rewrites here and there, is what I told myself some days. Other days the more the deadline to send in my play loomed, so did the self-doubt grow. The thing is this, I totally believed in the story I wanted to tell, but did I know the story? Could I see the whole story in my mind and so in effect translate it for the page? Again, no. It was a series of shadows, elusive, dancing in the peripheries of my dreams. I was floundering. At the very worst, I did not want to show anyone…

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Not so concrete
Harare, June 19th 2015

The nature of the Zimbabwean dramatic arts industry has always been about a bunch of people with a lot of heart and passion struggling their way through and learning through their numerous failures. There are very limited places where one can go and learn about the craft they hope to hone. So when an opportunity to learn from the world’s best presents itself it ceases to be about the individual playwright who is going to be in the workshop but the countless people who are going to benefit from that work. It becomes a case of the whole industry standing up and saying YES, that piece of work was honed and that was astounding. Zimbabweans are storytellers and they do have numerous stories to tell but what’s missing is the people to help develop them into world class plays. When I was invited to be part of the African Playwrights festival I was so thrilled…

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