May 29, 2019 | Campus, Boys’ College, Girls’ College | Author: Taryn Henning and Matthew Ross

Our St Stithians Girls' and Boys' Colleges dramatic arts students entered the Festival of Excellence in Dramatic Arts (FEDA) which is held annually in May at the Lesedi Theatre in Johanesburg. The Festival is described by adjudicator and CEO of the Market Theatre, Ismail Mohamed as follows, "FEDA is more than a theatre festival. It is a testimony that drama teachers, their students and their schools with the support of their principals are embracing and exercising two of the most valuable Rights enshrined in our constitution which pertain to the way we make Theatre - Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Creativity.  In embracing these freedoms theatre gives us the power to reflect on our past, critically engage with the present and envision the kind of society we aspire towards".

Our St Stithians Boys' College entered the Published Works category of the Festival with the play, “The Champion”, which is a painful telling of a young man struggling with domestic violence at home, which confuses his desire to be a champion boxer.  “The Champion” competed in FEDA against 58 other plays and was selected as a finalist as the only Published Work (the other four finalists were Originals Works productions). The FEDA final for 2019 took place on Saturday 25 May with a showcase of the five finalist plays followed by an awards ceremony at which it was announced that  St Stithians Boys' College and "The Champion" was the Winning Production for 2019.

The performance of “The Champion” received 10 nominations for which the Boys’ College took home Best Set Design, Best Choice of Music (Connor Skinner), shared Best Actor (Vuyolwethu Khuluse and Brandon Ibeneme) and Best Production. The other nominations included Best Supporting Actor (Qhawelihle Nyembe), Best Supporting Actor (Tumiso Mabetoa), Best Production Design (Andile Khuluse), Best Soundscape and Best Director. In his speech at the awards ceremony, Ismail Mohamed, had this to say: “Tonight’s winning production was slick and beautifully produced. It is ready to move into any of our theatres.”

The Girls’ College entered three Original Works into FEDA this year. The foundation for two of the plays was established in June last year. However, “The Darker Side of Light”, written and directed by Thobile Mthimkhulu, began in 2017. Thobile recalls that the idea came to her “when a friend spoke about a story she saw on Carte Blanche. It was about how women feel safer in prison than in their hostile domestic environments. This really impacted me and made me consider how dysfunctional our society is that women would rather stay in prison.” Thobile’s play received two nominations at FEDA: Best Actress (Nikita Jacobs) and Best Supporting Actress (Niike Neervoort) and received one award: Best Male Cameo (Thato Bernardo).

Essentially, this is what FEDA encourages: the telling of painful stories that challenges both the creators and audience to think more deeply about their world. Sometimes, this world is close to home. Anesu Mugadza recalls that her play, “Why Am I Here? was an opportunity to explore an issue that is so prevalent, Xenophobia. As someone originally from Zimbabwe, I'm ever aware of the presence of Xenophobia regardless of class in South Africa. Thus a lot of the creation phase was trying to better understand different experiences with Xenophobia that differ from my own, and to recreate these experiences in a truthful and theatrical way.”

Jemma Jenkins-Ferrett’s play “I Am…” was a response to a topic that had been close to her heart since 2016: “Fezekile Kuzwayo’s story has stayed with me since I first read she passed away 3 years ago. Through FEDA, I was able to devise a play from scratch with the help of an incredible cast, dedicated production designer Gabriella Jack, and the support of the most amazing drama teacher, Mrs Henning. The play-making process has been an invaluable one, allowing me to learn new things about myself and my own voice, as well as to gain useful skills which can be applied to my story telling and directing in the future.” Jemma’s play received 4 nominations: Best Actress (Thando Zwane), Best Production Design, Most Inspirational Play, Best Chorus and won the award for Best Mask Work. Gabriella Jack, who designed these masks states that the 17 masks individually took 6 hours to make, “made from paper and covered in silver duct tape for durability and aesthetics. The stage lights reflected off the duct tape and enhanced the geometry of the masks. Our director, Jemma Jenkins-Ferrett, worked with the cast and their use of masks so that the movement of the actors was animated.”

Mrs Henning, the Head of Dramatic Arts at the Girls’ College recalls how “this journey has been long and challenging, but the lessons learnt have been profound. We must never underestimate how extraordinary young people are today. We must celebrate their authenticity, courage and tenacity, and FEDA is the best platform for such work.”

We are incredibly proud of our dramatic arts students in both the Girls' and Boys' Colleges, their casts and crews, and congratulate them One and All for their achievements at this year's FEDA event. We thank all of our incredible staff in both Colleges for their passion and dedication, the parents and supporters for the invaluable role that they play in these successes and of course to FEDA for the platform and their headline sponsor, EasyEquities for their support of the dramatic arts and the nurturing of young talent.