Harare, April 9th 2016 | Kudzai Sevenzo
Saturday morning turned out to be a cold and rainy day in Harare. Although we had advertised the Talk on social media and in the press; there was still that lingering anxiety that no one would actually turn up, as most people were commuting. We waited patiently at the venue where we had advertised to start at 10am. Much to my relief; our first guests arrived! It wasn’t long before more people started trickling in, despite the pouring rain. When we had gathered a sizeable crowd, we started at 1030 sharp.
Participants ranged from actors, students, filmmakers, and aspiring actors. The discussion started with Zaza asking me the main question and reason for the talk: “How was my grad school audition process in the United States?” I relived every detail of this exciting and grueling chapter of my life: from the decision to attend drama school, to how my first Almasi workshop confirmed that decision, all the workshops I participated in, as a result of this determination to study acting, the preparation that ensued (selecting monologues, getting the right personal statement, acting classes, feedback from fellow actors and mentors about my monologues) and finally leaving the country to begin auditions. We discussed the reality versus the expectation of this exciting journey. I also shared how I had to constantly grow and challenge myself, particularly in the case where I took on a brand new monologue as I became more aware of how high the stakes were. Most importantly was how I realized that with each audition, I was presenting my work, and after every audition, my work was getting stronger; as I found my unique artistic voice, despite the fact that I was in a very new and foreign environment.
There was definitely a deep curiosity as to what to expect in an international audition process as the questions kept coming! Issues we discussed in detail were the sudden switch or culture shock from being accustomed to being part of a majority group (in your own home country) to being suddenly a minority when you audition away from Africa. We discussed the benefits that come with having a unique accent, life experience and even look; as well as the challenges they may pose in a typical audition room. We also discussed how high the stakes are, when you are auditioning in THE theatre capital of the world – it certainly was a lively and engaging discussion!
A young man approached me after the discussion. He was torn between his passion – which was acting and writing and the “sensible” career choice his family had chosen for him – they wanted him to be to be a doctor! This all- too familiar story is very common in a country where the arts industry has not yet developed enough for artists to be able to solely make a living from their craft. Most artists are forced to practice their craft as a hobby (if they even have time to, in the hustle and bustle of day to day survival.)
I asked the young man (who had just been accepted at a university in the United States to do a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama) what he spends most of his time doing. Without hesitation, he said “Writing!” Even as he said that, we both smiled knowingly, as we knew that he already had the answer to his dilemma. So to all the brave artists that have soldiered on and pursued their passion, despite a hostile economic environment; I salute you for your courage and your tenacity. With the passion inside of you, there are absolutely no limits!