Women make mark in theatre
SOUTH African women are steadily making a mark in theatre, beyond just acting.
In the past, women played a role on stage by being cast as actresses and that was as far as they could achieve. Fewer females were found in background roles such as directing, lighting and scriptwriting.
With many careers opening up these days, women in theatre can be found in diverse roles, climbing ladders, adjusting the depth of lights, or even drilling walls to create convincing locations for the audiences.
Transition is a process and it has been long enough to get to a point where a woman like Nomvula Molepo is head of lighting in various productions.
Molepo has been doing this job for the past decade and has beautiful tales to share about her journey.
"When I started as a lighting designer, the industry was white-dominated and all-male. Women were mostly on stage. Some had a problem of seeing a woman climbing a ladder but that is what a lighting designer does," Molepo says.
The change is evident nowadays, as we see women scooping awards as designers.
Ntshieng Mokgoro is a theatre director/playwright who has received outstanding recognition. She is the first black female to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and the Graham Lindop Theatre Award for Best Young Director.
Her successful productions include Umdlwembe, which won the Standard Bank Best Youth Production for the 2008/09 theatre season, Veil of Tears, which was nominated for the 2006/07 Naledi Awards.
Her views on the current state of theatre are innovative: "As women, we have shifted from writing stories complaining about what men do to us. We are telling humorous stories and are no longer feeling sorry for ourselves," says Mokgoro.
She also adds that the days of protest theatre are gone. These days, she says, "it's about telling all the stories about our lives, stories about the domestic worker, the businesswoman and about the woman who thinks make-up is all that is important to them."
Young and ambitious Shilongane Nkoane is doing her Masters at Tshwane University of Technology in set design and is loving every moment of her creative life.
Nkoane says it's time women are involved in all spheres of theatre.
"The theory is simple, what men can do is what woman can do. Set designing is not a man's job, its a job for all creatives."
Nkoane has done set design for works likeSo What's New, Philani And The Giant and Gcina Mhlophe's classic Have You Seen Zandile, among others.
However, there is still concern about the lack of transformation for women in the arts outside provinces like Gauteng.