By Constance Strickland
We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. I feel so lucky to introduce you the wonderful Makha Mthembu! Makha grew up during Apartheid and her #HFF19 show, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, centers on the changes South Africa was going through in 1992 as Nelson Mandela was being released from prison.
Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe and why now?
Makha: I wrote this piece in Grad School; it was my Graduate thesis. Despite a lot of positive feedback, I put it away. Yet, even though my piece takes place very specifically in 1992 Apartheid South Africa, its relevance to America now and even the world at large is why I decided to re-stage it. When I first moved here in 2007, the answer to the question, “Is the US a lot like South Africa?” was no! Now, not so much. The US and SA are way more similar than they used to be, and it’s not because South Africa has caught up with America. America is just a little bit more like my Post Apartheid South Africa, isn’t that sad?!
Constance: The work is now out there; you’ve given it away. How does that feel?
Makha: I feel so relieved! Getting this thing moving was tough. I wrote it, I’m in it, I had to find my space, pay for my space, find a costume, get my props, cultivate an audience. This was exhausting. It is beyond delightful to just get to perform it. Yes it’s just me, but it’s only about twenty minutes and then I get to have great conversations with people. And then, which is even better, I get to go and see someone else’s awesome Fringe Show!
Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show? What has been the biggest discovery?
Makha: My director this go around is an amazing director and friend of mine based out of Chicago named Michelle Altman. She challenged me to actually find the fun of performing it. And who knew I could actually enjoy performing a comedy about Apartheid? Meeting other Fringers has also been beyond a delight! I feel like I’ve made more friends in the past two months than I did living here for two years. I’ve learnt that LA actually has a very vibrant clowning scene. There are a bunch of theatre artists here. And everyone is as terrified and exhausted as I am; doing the Fringe definitely helped me find more of my people.
Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of the Fringe?
Makha: Doing everything myself, that was stupid. I’ve learnt that next time I take on a project like this, I should have another collaborator in the same city as me.
Constance: What do you hope audience members take away from your show?
Makha: Well first it’s FREE, so I hope people just see my show! I feel as though we are in a time where people are not able to listen. We don’t listen to each other, or people who don’t agree with us. And I think listening is the crux of conversation, you can’t just be thinking about what you’re going to say next or your rebuttal. I just hope people listen, and feel how they want to feel. I don’t think anyone one person is to blame for everything, but we are all present all of the time and that makes us responsible. So let’s just listen and take it from there.