My “Convert” Experience

Posted on Jan 1, 2014

 

My “Convert” Experience

Harare, December 30th 2013 | Elizabeth R.S Muchemwa

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Working on the African premiere of The Convert by Danai Gurira was a deeply worthwhile experience. Each and every job I take on is an opportunity to grow and to learn something new. Before coming on to the job as an Assistant director, some asked me why I was going to take this on since I have been directing for some time and have undergone some training; but seeing director Adam Immerwahr in the rehearsal room with the actors and the stage management team; in production meetings with the technical and production team made me realize another aspect of directing that I had not been able to experience. This confirmed to me that I had made the right decision.

 
I had always wondered what would it be like to have all the personnel that you need when you are making a stage production, because one does not relish being part of a production where as a director you are doing almost everything; that is what I have had to put up with working in Zimbabwe. And coming from that experience I appreciated the importance of a functioning producer, a playwright who is available to answer questions that the actors have concerning the script, a stage manager who is present for all rehearsals and is capable of running the show and technical crew that have had enough meetings with the director, and are deeply familiar with the play and can deliver work that complements the show.
 
Yet having 13 or so people employed for their particular expertise does not mean that the job becomes easier; it just means that as a director you have to be intelligent and human enough to respect and relate well with people and their positions and make sure that what they are bringing is enough to make the production a success. We learned not only from Adam but he learnt from us, even as far as trying to understand our Shona culture and he learnt how to give, in the rehearsal room, basic instructions in Shona. Almasi Collaborative Arts’ motto is professionalizing Zimbabwean arts, and in The Convert the level of professionalism that was achieved was such that I realized that that is possible; it is possible for people to learn new structures, adapt and implement them according to their own context.
 
Before the run started some of us were not sure that we going to get good audiences but we were surprised to see people turn up in their numbers to see the show even when it was raining (a general showstopper in Zim), a testament to the fact that theater audiences in Harare are still there and are yearning for good theater. But what I was most moved by was the ability of 23 Zimbabweans and 1 American to come together and make a successful piece of art. A process that was guided by a spirit of learning, growing and working together in making things work not just for this one production but for others to come.
 
 

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