By Tapiwa Marume
Following the ZIFF 2017 theme ‘The Business of Film’ Chiedza Mhende affectionately known as ‘Chi’ held a highly engaging and interactive workshop on the discipline of acting, performance and drama. The workshop was mainly directed to actors so that they become better equipped professionals to practice their craft.
Chi plays a male role in the popular South African soap, Generations: The Legacy. The workshop was divided into three exercises each with a definitive specific important lesson and the closing question and answer section.
In the first exercise ‘Monologues and Interviews’ she asked participants to pair up and give brief introductions to each other. The next phase in the exercise asked for paired volunteers named as ‘A’ and ‘B’ to come up front where one (A) was asked to tell a very brief story about any experiences he/ she has had while the other (B) listened together with the other participants. In the following phase B was asked to act out exactly how partner A spoke, moved and expressed his/ herself.
This exercise was meant to drive home the significance of good listening and observational skills, paying attention to detail and absorbing the overall feel of the character one wants to re-act.
“If you’re going to be given a role or story you have to know that person, you have to research about that person, you have to disown yourself so that you can take on that (new role/ character) person,“ said the humorous Chi.
The next exercise asked one of the partners to close the eyes and be led by the other partner to move around and explore the environment. The partner leading had to explain to the partner with closed eyes where they were going, what the blind partner was coming into contact with and what they were being led to touch and feel. In this scenario “A” had to be the eyes and legs of “B”. The aim of the exercise was to reveal the importance of building trust, being vulnerable and communication during productions.
In the last exercise, all the participants were put in two groups of with twelve members each and asked to come up with an idea about a structure they then would form. This was meant to make individuals to find their positions with the group either as directors, original idea bearers or actor and encourage team work. This however, revealed the best positions within the film industry each participant was best suited for or not.
The closing question and answer segment allowed the audience to shoot from all angles asking questions related to her role in Generations which is regarded as very controversial in this part of the world as it relates to persons of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans gender community (LGBT). She said she was not afraid of acting as a transgender male in the soap because there is great difference between a character in a film and the actual person who plays that role in the film.
She encouraged actors to never give up on their dreams despite the many challenges that may come in their path. She advised local actors to come up with unions that will look out for them and ensure best and fair practices in the film making industry.
Her mother who was part of the audience advised young film enthusiasts to be passionate enough as her daughter was for their parents to notice so that they would escape being forced to study something else they do not love at college.
The workshop was held on Saturday 02 September at the festival’s main venue in collaboration with Almasi Collaborative Arts represented by Zaza Muchemwa who is the Associate District Director. ZIFF Executive Director Nigel Munyati, local actors, producers, journalists and directors attended the two hour long comprehensive workshop.