Seeking out triple-threat performers: those who are skilled actors, dancers and singers, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT), Nedbank and DALRO (Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation) awarded three scholarships to deserving young candidates at the end of October.
Hard work is rewarded: this is the light that ACT shines in the eager eyes of young people who want to pursue their dream of a career in the performing arts.
For the first time, in 2015, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) cast their net wider by holding auditions in every province of South Africa in the search for performance hopefuls who could rise up to the challenge of being a triple-threat performer and stand a chance to win one of the revered ACT | Nedbank | DALRO Scholarship Awards. The awards add up to R315 000 for the three winners but the reward to both the awardees and their parents is incalculable. More so, the opportunity that this award provides to would-be-performers across the country is the gift of dreaming, and this is inestimably precious.
Students know, from the tender ages of their late teens, that hard work does not necessarily equal success when one cannot afford to put their hard work to the test at a university. School-leavers today are faced with great responsibility and sobering realities but when the call to be a performer has sounded through a young person’s bones it is crushing when that person feels forced to tell themselves to stop dreaming. This is where the works of ACT, Nedbank and DALRO (Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation) become critical in maintaining the positive pulse of the nation’s heartbeat. They bring hope.
Raymond ‘Mond’ Motadi, who hosted the showcase at the Market Theatre, opened the show with a heartfelt note on the importance of the scholarships to a young dreamer. He won the position of Master of Ceremonies through a competition that runs concurrently with the showcase preparations – offering yet another ‘break’ to a talented student. In 2015, ACT showed that they have a deep understanding of the needs addressed by the award and provided even more qualitative development opportunities through the showcase presentation. Previous winners were given the chance to gain professional experience by choreographing pieces and mentoring the finalists; providing the previous winners with an audience and further, media attention.
The weight of the pressure was on the finalists. The six, who were selected from 200 candidates nationally, sang and danced and acted their hearts out on the John Kani stage. The evening began with a group song whose harmonies sent goosebumps running up the arms of every audience member. The nerves of the family members in the room were palpable and so was the sheer hunger of the performers. Carla Smith set herself apart from the first note of ‘Seasons of Love’. She shone in the lights and she moved as though she were alone onstage in front of only her parents, doing what she’s been doing since she was born: performing!
When she was announced as the winner of the
R150 000 prize it was no surprise. Her monologue emanated a mad, yet quiet, humour and her song radiated pure joy throughout the auditorium. She had audience members in a kind of call-and-response-thrill as she sang her plea for them not to tell her ‘mama’ where they had seen her. And whilst the dance technique of all finalists did leave much to be desired, hers was a dance of such raw emotion that she soared. In her ecstatic state, after being announced as the winner, she said that she was relieved for her parents because this would take such a load off their shoulders, financially. She also said that they had told her it doesn’t matter what the outcome is ‘”you must just enjoy yourself,” they said.’ And this enjoyment of her performance was her winning formula.
The runner-up, Caleb Heynes, as well as the third prize winner Andiswa Mbolekwa, shared this key aspect; they too lit up on the stage. Heynes’ family had never seen him perform before this auspicious night. While the fun-loving head boy, who had the audience in stitches during his rendition of The Ugly Noo Noo, took funny-faced selfies with his trophy his family was almost uniformly holding their hands to their chests. Hailing from what his family calls ‘very very humble and difficult beginnings,’ they swelled with pride because all they asked for was for him ‘to win, obviously, and he did.’ Mbolekwa’s family was simply stunned. And while the participants all received something, it was obvious just how vital this award is for the dreamers to afford to keep dreaming when the other finalists welled up at the end of the night. CF