American actress grooms Zim talent

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LOS ANGELES-BORN Obie Award winning American playwright and actress Nikkole Salter is currently in Zimbabwe working with a selected group of local playwrights through an arts exchange programme facilitated by a local theatre organisation.

Entertainment Reporter

Salter’s visit, the second since 2006, was facilitated by Almasi, a Zimbabwean American dramatic arts collaborative organisation which aims “to professionalise the dramatic arts industry in Zimbabwe through education, facilitation and collaboration with professional”.

“In building this curriculum for this particular programme, I want to be able to impart to participants an understanding of dramatic structure and to create for them a barometer of excellence without robbing them of their individual voice, or their cultural expression as they manifest in their work,” said Salter on the sidelines of the four-week playwright intensive workshop which started late September and is expected to end next week.

Five Zimbabwean participants — Gideon Wabvuta, Tafadzwa Bob Mutumbi, Samantha Ndlovu, Thandiwe Nyamasvisva and Tsungai Hatitye as well as American Jonathan Brakash — are going through various techniques of story development so they can develop plays with universal appeal. Participants were ecstatic about their accomplishments so far.

“The seminar has given me practical information on how to critique my own work and with these treasured tools I can safely confidently say ‘I can write plays’ anywhere anytime without any fear,” Mutumbi said.
Another participant, Ndlovu, said Salter had brought “a different take on dramatisation, which I feel we can use merging with our Zimbabwean take on dramatisation”.

Salter said the particpants would get enough information on creating productions.

“We are introducing them to the idea that this is not the end by any stretch of the imagination, it’s the beginning. By the end of the programme they will have enough information to know how to continue to build and what something that is complete looks like,” she said.

Almasi co-founder Patience Gamu Tawengwa said the workshop would develop local talent to levels recognised across the world.

“We want our Zimbabwean playwrights to write stories that are recognised about Zimbabwean experience and to see that 50 to 100 years from now someone from America, Russia, or anywhere in the world saying this is a good piece of dramatic work worth replicating,” Tawengwa said.

She said the participants were recruited through an open application process.

The applications were reviewed by a panel comprising Zimbabwean and American theatre practitioners.

Salter received an OBIE Award (2006), and the NY Outer Critics Circle’s John Gassner Award for Best New American Play (2006), the Seldes-Kanin Fellowship from the Theatre Hall of Fame, and the Global Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations, to name a few.

A recipient of the Helen Hayes and Black Theatre Alliance nominations for Best Actress for her performance, Salter said her experience with conversations with Zimbabwean artistes had shown that most plays produced in the country tend to be “first draft renditions of broader ideas”.