BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
NEW YORK-BASED Zimbabwean actress and singer Vongai Shava (left) has been making great strides in foreign lands, featuring in a number of theatre productions and winning awards in the process.
The fast-rising actress, who won Best Lead Drama Actress at Catalyst Content Festival (formerly ITVFest) for her short film Patiri in the Promised Land, which was screened at the New Jersey Film Festival, told NewsDay Life & Style that she was passionate about telling stories about “under-represented” communities.
“As an artiste, I am often most excited by and passionate about telling stories that celebrate under-represented communities and encourage people to have the difficult conversations that can help the world move forward to a society that benefits everyone. As a Zimbabwean, I find it especially important to be in this industry so that I can be able to tell our communities’ stories and help give them a global platform. So I’ve started writing my own stories during quarantine,” she said.
“I won Best Drama Actress at the Catalyst Content Festival in 2018 (formerly ITVFest) for my short film Patiri in the Promised Land, which led me to attend meetings with executives from HBO, Netflix and Random House Studios and I have also been in a number of theatre productions Off-Broadway.”
Shava disclosed that her unique skills had helped her accomplish a lot in her career, adding that she also had the opportunity to feature in numerous plays both in New York and beyond.
She said she was so excited to participate in the Broadway play, Harry Potter, and the Cursed Child as well as the recording for The Photograph directed by Stella Meghie and starring Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield.
“I also had a chance to perform in a reading of Toasting Scotty at The Actor’s Studio alongside Paul Guilfoyle. I have also performed in numerous plays both in New York and regionally, including Black Sparta written and directed by NAACP’s award-winner Layon Gray about the Dahomey Warriors and The Refugee Plays,” she said.
The up-and-coming actor, who was born in Harare and raised in London (UK) and Beijing (China), holds a BA (Hons) degree in film and television studies from Brunel University in London.
She received training in acting, voice and movement at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and is currently represented by Take 3 Talent Agency and managed by Jago and Associates.
Shava said being in different productions helped her realise that it was an honour and privilege to tell people’s stories.
“Pygmalion and Othello are standouts and when I was at Arundel, we staged Alice and Wonderland. Unfortunately, there were no auditions. I had also the honour and privilege of being cast in Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel and being part of that production taught me that the stories I choose to tell are bigger than me and that they are important and have a potential to affect, influence and move people,” she said.
Her projects include ongoing work with Torrent Theatre Company, developing a play called Soraya’s Eyes. “The play brings to light the issue of genital mutilation and female abuse in eastern Africa,” she said.
“We are all about networking and development at Torrent, and I would love to work on the play in its next stages.”
Shava has also worked on the viral video Time Well Spent, which saw renowned poet Max Stossel lamenting the impersonality of technology.
Shava’s credits include her work in The Real Page Turner, a series screened at the Tribeca Screening Room and The Refugee Plays. She also featured in Hyena, a play exploring rape as the oldest weapon of war.
“I played Asja, a young Congolese refugee who had been brutally raped, in a processing centre, awaiting transfer to a refugee camp,” she said.