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Menings | Opinion > Onderhoude | Interviews > English

Sinethemba Twani Sinethemba Twain?

Naomi Meyer - 2011-11-01

Untitled Document

Sinethemba Twani

Izak de Vries recently wrote about The Beneficiary at the ArtsCape on his blog. Naomi Meyer asked Sinethemba Twani, who wrote the play, about himself.

Tell me who Sinethemba Twani is. Where were you born and raised?

Sinethemba Twani is a 22-year-old playwright, a gentleman born and raised in Gugulethu, Cape Town. My parents passed away a long time ago, so my granny raised me up.

A little bird ... okay, Google! ... told me that you worked at a petrol station before you ended up in theatre. Tell me the story behind the story.

I always wanted to work for theatre, but because I had to put food on the table, after I dropped out of CPUT in March 2009 (where I was doing retail business management) I went to work at a Caltex garage so I could support my family. But my dreams of being a writer were not forsaken. I was working at ArtsCape at the same time I was working at Caltex. I would go to ArtsCape on my off days from Caltex, or in the morning if I was working night-shift, but my workload increased when I had to rework The Beneficiary preparing for the ArtsCape Spring Drama Season. I had to take some time off so I could be at ArtsCape full-time but my managers at Caltex were against that, so I decided to resign on September this year.

What gave you the idea for The Beneficiary?

I had never been to the Eastern Cape. My friends always went there during their school holidays or on special occasions and I always wondered how life was on that side of the world. They shared their knowledge and experience with me and I would collect all that information and create drama out of it. I also used my life experience to move the story forward, because my family was against the idea of my being a writer – they expected me to have a 9-5 job, being a lawyer or doctor – they took it as a hobby, so I had to convince them that this is a career I want to pursue, the same thing Lifa does to Gcinikhaya in the story. So I collected the information I got about the Eastern Cape and my personal dilemma to create a beautiful story that everyone will benefit from.

You read Izak de Vries’s blog on The Beneficiary. Please describe your reaction.

I was surprised that someone else could travel into my mind and come up with that information, because what I read from the blog was exactly what I wanted to say to the viewers, but at the same time was worried if they would get the message I was trying to deliver to them. I never thought someone from another race would connect with the issues in the story; I think I underestimated my work in a way. I still can't believe the reviews I get from people who came to the show. It simply means I have a lot to offer to the world and you guys believe in me that I’ve got potential to deliver.

Another little bird told me about your idea for a theatre in Gugulethu. How is that working out?

I started writing The Beneficiary in 2009 and I wanted to test my skill, but I hardly found any community theatres in Gugs, so I decided to open my own, Gumba Squared Theatre. I was so lucky to get assistance from people who were working in the industry already – some were working at the Baxter, Cape Films Commission and ArtsCape. So they saw the first performance of The Beneficiary in Gugs, but at that time it was not translated yet, so its title was Indlalifa. The community was impressed with my work, so a friend of mine, Phila Nkuzo, told me about the ArtsCape New Writing Programme and I sent them my script and they were convinced that it has potential to be staged in ArtsCape, but I had to translate it so that I could cater for a much broader audience. That was the end of Gumba Squared Theatre in Gugs – no one was willing to take it over while I was working at Caltex and ArtsCape.

Any plans for more writing?

While I was working at ArtsCape I learnt a lot, for I was exposed to the inside-outs of the theatre industry. I know what works and what doesn't. Fatima Dike, who is my mentor and an experienced writer, taught me a lot about being a playwright, so I want to put the information she gave me into practice. I am currently working on my second play. People like you are pushing me forward to reach the stars, so if I don't write, how do I expect to reach the stars? I owe it to the world, I owe it to myself.