Making An Impact Through Theatre
THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE
We are indeed the “forgotten people”. As soon as a sentence is passed by the magistrate, and you are placed behind bars, the key is literally and figuratively thrown away. And yet we all have hopes, dreams, untouched talents. We have so much to offer our communities. Our insights, our experiences, our endurance in the face of adversity, the hard lessons learned. We want to help. We want to work. We want to become valuable and contributing members of our communities again. And yet, the only community that accepts us, is the prison community. And the need for the life lessons of ex-offenders, is needed now more than ever.
I have been helping to make and serve food to our vulnerable children and the elderly in our community. I have seen and moved amongst many different organisations, NPO’s and NGO’s, who whilst doing amazing work, are overworked and seriously short of manpower, as these jobs are either voluntary or very low paid. Then we have many ex-offenders, who are unemployed and who want to assist and give back to their communities. And right there, is the solution to solve the employment crisis for ex-offenders and to give the non-profits, the assistance that they need.
ON 2019 PRODUCTIONS
The experiences of 2019, working with both students from UCT and the inside company has been very exciting. Although we’ve experienced many ups & downs with regards to personal related issues, our proven analytical skill and maturity (rehabilitation) helped us to resolve these issues in order for us to have one vision, one drive and one team at the end of the day.
We managed to write out true life stories based on what we have experienced and used the ones that motivated us. We turned the stories into a successful production filled with a sense of both reality and humour. We gathered information from people who were our role models in life, the ones who kept us moving forward, irrespective of our situation; and the ones who placed our successes before our failures, the ones who valued and accepted us for who we are.
For example, many of us have experienced once in our life what it means to be coloured; we came up with a brilliant piece entitled “coloured poem”. This also inspired us to relate to how foreigners had to struggle for survival in South Africa. We also experimented with different slang used within South Africa. We had to learn the way we “as coloureds” pronounce things differently in our “Cape Flats” slang and how it differs to those of the Xhosa and Zulu slang. Take the words, “main meal”; Xhosa speaking individuals think it’s “mielie meal”. But others understand it as the big meal you have at supper time. Some people eat mostly potatoes and mielie meal, but others want to eat salad! We made a scene about miscommunication and misunderstanding.
We were also inspired by the people we grew up with and the relation as to how generations have changed hence the time that we have been in school until the democracy in 1994. We had to learn and try to understand what drives the teens of today and also relate according to what we experience on a daily basis with them. We performed at many cultural events. adapting to each place three productions through the year. As the group outside prison, we formed a bond so strong that we gave each a second chance, not only in life but in Theatre too.
Joining the second chance theatre group in 2019 has really been a first for me. At first I was confused coz I didn't really know what it was about until I put on my “Mask” and got into role. The experience with second chance theatre taught me quite alot as funny as it may sound but I actually got an opportunity to face some demons. And that all came from a simple telling of a story and then finally getting to act it out. What was so amazing for me was when we'd been given a task how easily you make use of your own experience in life. Even something I always had difficulty with but came to share so easily and that was where the our ideas came from for the play. It came from personal experiences. And voilà we created scenes from that. I can't say that the whole performance felt like mine but I could relate to most and that is why I said that I faced many demons.
In 2019 the Parolees and UCT students worked together for performance. It was really great - students of UCT show their respect to the Parolees, that they are willing to learn from the Parolees, and on the other side, Parolees were respecting the students [who were] also willing to learn from the students. And their director was allowing the actors to feel free with ideas. “the group wrote our stories about June 16 and that from us was very nice because when you perform the script you wrote by yourself it makes easy for you to memorize the story you wrote.
THEATRE CHANGED MY LIFE
I believed I knew it all about Theatre until I joined the Second Chance Theatre project & we created a play about our childhood stories. In the process I also learned how to develop a play from images (family photographs). I was blown away by the experience & creativity that I wanted to learn more about Theatre, Theatre changed my life & my way of thinking.
I was inside in 2019 - I remember well that we were divided into groups, and shared our happy, sad, bad & good moments we had experienced in life. We also shared our stories with each other, same stories we used in creating 3 still images with a beginning, middle & end. From there we created scenes from the images & later developed a script. I never thought it was possible until everything was put together & the work became our own. The whole performance was based on our own stories, I loved every moment. Theatre gave me a second chance at life.