Danai Gurira ’s The Convert comes to town

Award-winning Zimbabwean actress and playwright Danai Gurira is in the country to oversee the production of her play The Convert opening on Tuesday at Prince Edward.

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

Popularly known for her role in the American series The Walking Dead where she features as Michonne, Gurira is arguably one of the most successful Zimbabwean products.

Speaking to Standardlife&style last week, Gurira said Zimbabwean theatre talent is good enough for international consumption but there is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve standards.

She said theatre is a cultural ambassador that must be fully supported.

“We have the talent in Zimbabwe that can match the international standards but it is disappointing that theatre is not fully supported, hence its slow growth,” said Danai.

“For the theatre sector to grow, let us not just wait for the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa). I believe it was going to be a good idea if we could embrace the theatre culture throughout the year,” she added.

Zimbabwe has seen a handful of theatrical productions this year outside Hifa owing to the closure of Theatre in the Park.

The Rooftop Promotions-run platform has been one of the most vibrant public theatres in the country but the producers’ fight with Zimbabwe International Book Fair last year has ended the 17 years of life for the theatre. Daves Guzha, the director of Rooftop Promotions has promised the opening of a new space in the Harare Gardens for Theatre in the Park but up to now it has not come to pass.

A few other companies like Savannah Trust have been ushering the development of theatre concentrating on training, while Tafadzwa Muzondo’s Edzai Isu has been focussing on workplace theatre.

Gurira is working with local actors on the production of The Convert after having worked with an American cast.

Directed by American Adam Immerwahr, the play will run from Tuesday to December 24 at Prince Edward High School in the capital.

Actors to feature in the play include Gideon Wabvuta, Rumbidzai Karize, Michael Kudakwashe, Charmaine Mujeri and Tafadzwa Bob Mutumbi among others.

Gurira said she was fascinated to work with a local cast in the production of The Convert, adding that all the actors were excited about the progress and how the play was developing.

The play, set amid the scramble for southern Africa in 1895, tells the tale of Jekesai, a young girl who escapes a forced marriage arrangement with the help of a stalwart black African catechist, Chilford Ndlovu.

Caught between her loyalties to her family and culture but indebted to this new Christian God, she becomes Chilford’s protégé, but when an anti-colonial uprising erupts she is forced to decide which side of the conflict she will choose — and where her heart belongs.

With wit and compassion, the play explores the untold cultural and religious collisions caused by British colonists in this part of southern Africa, and the reverberating effects still felt in the region at present.

Gurira’s play is currently playing at the Wilma Theatre in the Philadelphia, PA. She is among three young Zimbabwean women who made it into the Forbes’ The 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa 2012.

A graduate of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Gurira has guest starred on TV shows that include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Life on Mars and Lie to Me.

Back home, she has featured in a number of local productions that include her award-winning play titled In the Continuum that was staged at the Theatre in the Park and other venues in the country in commemoration of the World Aids Day.

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