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MY FAIR LADY COMES TO KAMPALA
A Musical Masterpiece
Close to the end of Act 1 of the Musical Masterpiece by Lerner and Loewe, Professor Henry Higgins asks, “What could possibly matter more than to take a human being and change her into a different human being by creating a new speech for her? Why, it’s filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class, and soul from soul?” It is within these lines that we understand the argument of the play. Yet, under the umbrella of this larger theme we are left to contemplate more nuanced themes such as love, fatherhood, friendship, and a big one, what it means to be a woman.
By far, this is currently Kisaka’s greatest work as director and most compelling performance as a lead actress. She is simply a triple threat! Actor, singer and elegant dancer. However, this production is rather unique in nature as the lead actor for role of Professor Henry Higgins is none other than Lwazi Diamond Kisaka, Kisaka’s big brother. Together their performance was gripping and jaw-dropping. In fact, an audience member commented that they were “spell-bound”. It was like watching an intense table-tennis match whenever they shared the stage together.
This production was produced by Timeless Events and Concepts under the leadership of Karen Hasahya Kimuli and Della Kalanzi who both doubled as assistant directors. Kisaka was backed by Andrew Amanyire as Dance Director and Donald Baguma as Musical Director. The Team began rehearsals in December 2022 and premiered at the Serena Hotel on 15th April 2023 with a tantalizing red-carpet experience.
This production has brought the joy of theatre back to the streets of Kampala. If there was any doubt about the skills Kisaka could harness for theatre and the performance world, those doubts have been silenced. All we can do now is find ways to fund and support the rising talent in Kampala, reserve those calendar dates and plan ticket money ahead of time. Because we now know, it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime
DRAMATURGY FROM A DIRECTORS POINT OF VIEW
What does it mean to decolonise dramaturgy? Taiwo Afolabi presented "Decolonizing Dramaturgy: Self-Dramaturgy and dramaturging others: dramaturge as a nurturer" live on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv to answer this very question. The discussion was passionate and riveting. For anyone new to the terms dramaturg or dramaturgy, this conversation revealed the numerous available understandings of this somewhat less spoken of role in theatre.
Each artist on the panel brought a unique perspective to the discussion. Kisaka, elaborated on what it means to work with a dramaturg and how it has helped her as a director and actress. She posited that the dramaturg keeps the directing of the play in line, "authentic to what you originally wanted it to be whether as a playwright or director". She called a dramaturg a kind of "protector" of a piece of work. While speaking candidly, these three exceptional artists delved into the idea that at times there is a need to stop using the dramaturg so as to allow the audience to see the truth of the subject matter or for the piece to develop a new journey away from an old interpretation.
This discussion, episode 3 of a five-episode series is a must watch in order to understand the multi-faceted role a dramaturg and to learn the ways in which we can decolonise dramaturgy.
VANILLA SQOOPS ITS FIRST OFFICIAL SELECTION
It feels like it is Kisaka's second film but it isn't. Several of you may recall her sharing a similar themed film entitled, John, a couple of years back so why is she calling this one her first? Well, Vanilla is John, reshot and her efforts are paying off.
Only a few months after re-writing and reshooting this moving and heart-checking picture, Kisaka has earned her first official selection at the Berlin International Art Film Festival. She believes that whether she wins an award from it or not, the selection is testament that her efforts were worth it.
Vanilla has cost Kisaka ten times more to create than its original version and with triple the crew. Not that a bigger crew and more funds creates better work but sometimes it does take more to do better. Unlike, John, Kisaka has kept this piece of work rather clandestine to the public as it makes its festival tours. Perhaps to leave window for improvement. If you ask her how she managed to do it all again in such a short period of time, she says she has Kuonyesha Art Fund to thank and God.
So, dear readers, a first selection is always a good sign, lets wait for more and the premiere reveal soon enough.
KILLING TIME TAKES KAMPALA BY STORM
Only a few months back in November 2020 were we celebrating the video publishing of Aganza Kisaka’s play, Killing Time by Ibua Publishers. Kampala audiences were kept waiting expectantly for its public release and they waited and waited. With theatres shut down, festivals moved online and performers in recluse, audiences became impatient. However, the silence was not for long nor was it wasted. Ibua Publishers were doing the arduous producer work or submitting the play to potential platforms and festival and in March and April they got a bite.
In March, Lagos Theatre Festival was the big catch with Killing Time representing East Africa alongside plays from the UK, Nigeria, USA, and Canada. Although, the festival was online, the excitement elicited from the actors and production team was visceral; as though the performance was going to be live. Attendance to this event was a must, if not to say, I attended Lagos theatre festival. But we wanted to watch the play for ourselves. In our country!
Soon after that, in April, the second big catch happened. Goethe Zentrum hosted Ibua Publishers to showcase Killing Time for the first time to Ugandan audiences with a talk back from the playwright and cast. With a packed out audience, popcorn and a few beers, Killing Time had Ugandans laughing and giggling right from the beginning. During the talk back, it was clear that some characters had become audience favorites; they had even picked up their lines. A standing ovation was given to the playwright who emphasized the fact that we must tell our own stories the way we know how.
It’s now all we can do to wait expectantly for the live showing of Killing time. It is truly a classic.
LIVING AS A CHRISTIAN IN THE PERFORMING ARTS
What does it mean for christians to be in the performance arts?
This April, Spirit TV invited the beautiful Aganza Kisaka on their Saturday show Recharge. She was hosted by Awar Dabadguy who got straight to the meat of the matter about being a Christian in the performance industry.
It was a candid conversation that shed some light on the difficulties that an individual may face while pursuing a career in performance however, Aganza reassured the audience that knowledge of your identity in Christ is a key. Know who you are first before people define who you are.
During the conversation it was revealed that Aganza didn’t always desire to be an actress. In fact, her first chosen career was to be a medical nurse but this was for the bizarre reason of simply wearing the uniform; something she gets to do through her acting anyway.
Aganza was interviewed alongside actor Kato Lauben and both of them reiterated the fact that they love the versatility of acting because it has enabled them to play roles in several different professions such as doctors and carpenters that they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to study or perform.
In her final charge to the audience, she encouraged them to keep practicing in the dark, keep rehearsing when no one is looking so that when the question, ARE YOU READY, is asked, the answer is a definite, YES.
EIGHT WEEK ACTING CLASSES WITH AGANZA
If you hang around Aganza long enough you will inevitably hear her speak of her desire to develop performing arts in Uganda. Ladies and gentlemen, need I say: It was about time. This March, Aganza is bringing an eight-week intensive acting course to Kampala that is created by merging lessons and techniques from her favorite western acting instructors and theorists. Partnering with the talented Sarah Nansubuga who has starred in projects like Queen of Katwe and Mother Courage, and combining their international experience to create a cocktail fit for the Ugandan actor. They will be instructing lessons in acting, voice & movement while breaking down all connotations that acting is a mentally driven talent and pushing their participants to get into their bodies.
From the look of the posters and sign up requirements, these two ladies are playing no games. Clearly, they are looking for performers who are ready and willing to invest in their craft and carry those techniques into their professional work. These are not classes for individuals who just woke up and thought acting is interesting. These are classes for people who want to go to the next level and are willing to pay for it. Aganza says that she hopes that by end of the eight weeks all her students will be “able to confidently walk into an audition knowing who they are, what they are capable of performing and hence ask for their moneys worth when chosen.” She adds that, “if television stations like Pearl Magic want to amp their viewing experience then the actors also need to amp their acting performance.”
So far the acting class sign ups have gotten a positive reception. Lets wait for their showcase at the end of the eight weeks to hear how the experience was from the eight chosen participants.
DSTV PEARL MAGIC PRIME LAUNCHES
Remember when we told you that Aganza was one of the writers of Mama & Me TV series dramedy and then she was asked to direct eight episodes of it? Well! You can now view Mama & Me on DSTV Pearl Magic Prime Channel 148.
Mama & Me alongside three other projects were launched this February as a way of amplifying the viewing experience for Ugandans by providing world class content. These four projects are only the beginning of Pearl Magic’s’ commitment of developing the entertainment industry and economy of Uganda. Aganza, alongside many other directors is privileged to be a pioneer practitioner in the implementation of this goal.
THE MAKING OF BLACK GLOVE FILM
Think fashion. Think tourism. Think of the luxurious lifestyle Uganda has to offer if you let it. These are seductive words that were used to lure Aganza Kisaka to take part in a unique murder mystery film by Douglas Sebamala called Black Glove. For her, the icing on the cake was the opportunity to be directed by award winning writer and director, Angella Emurwon; a dream come true. Fitted with a star cast and acing crew, Black Glove creates a stir of excitement and curiosity for Ugandan film lovers in 2021.
Rehearsals for this tantalizing noir piece kicked off early December with online readings and five hour long production meetings. The Sunday zoom fatigue was not enough to derail the eager team from an intense three days of physical rehearsals and two days of shooting. Despite it not being the principal shooting for Black Glove, it was just enough to create a buzz and stir up the fans.
In this film, Aganza performs the role of Grace, a highly enterprising, resourceful and intelligent chauffer. Yes, a chauffer. However, this is not the production where Aganza gets to wear her Fast and Furious hat whilst leaving a whirlwind of dust behind her as she speeds off into the sunset or maybe it is. We’ll just have to watch to find out.
KILLING TIME | AN ABSURDIST PLAY BY AGANZA KISAKA
There’s always that annoying question we ask creative’s that causes them to twitch, sigh heavily and look in the sky as if it holds answers while their hands begin to gesture vigorously before their mouths speak. The question is: So, what are you working on now? A simple question that tasks the artist into articulating in a clandestine manner what he or she hopes will be their next greatest piece of work. For the past three years, Aganza has twitched and fumbled through an explanation for her new play that has now come out of the oven. KILLING TIME.
She conveys that Killing time has changed form about four times and the only most consistent thing about it is its title yet even that was up for debate at one point. Killing Time is a true testimony to how consistency in writing, re-editing and allowing the work to marinate truly creates a whole piece of work that is well done and thorough. Killing time is sadly humorous, shockingly true and annoying clever in the way it conveys truths about our society, particularly in Uganda and the struggles individuals from the rural parts of the city face on a daily basis. However, its themes are universal and transferrable.
This year, Killing Time has been produced by Ibua Publishers who hope to showcase it to audiences in 2021. It is performed by two actors who have the arduous task of playing up to seven characters each during the course of the performance. The one-hour play follows the journey of two unlikely village mango tree idlers, Kalumbi and Makembo as they embark on a mission to be respectable both in their village and in the city but they seem to keep meeting obstacle after obstacle. This is definitely a must see for theatres or online viewing.
PERFORMERS AS A CONDUIT BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD AND THE STAGE
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A CONVERSATION WITH KAFUNDA KREATIVES
Just when we were starting to think that 2020 would end without any provoking and heart stirring theatre conversations or performances, Kafunda Kreatives invited Aganza Kisaka alongside Pamela Keryeko to scratch our theatrical bones in conversation.
The conversation centered on their journey as theatre practitioners and the gaps in the theatre industry especially in comparison to that in the western world such as Broadway. Both artists iterated that there is a lack of practical experience for those wishing to enter theatre, most knowledge of the field is theory based. They also expounded on the various, much needed, roles available in theatre and reasoned that these roles tend to go unnoticed because upcoming performers are more concerned with being in front of the limelight yet the performance wouldn’t even be a possibility if it were not for these less visible roles. Aganza pointed out that one major gap in the Uganda theatre industry is a service mindset. She suggested that perhaps one of the reasons we are not yet at the quality of a Broadway production is because we still lack a willingness to serve excellently and diligently.
We hope this will be the first on many appearances for Aganza at the Kafunda Kreative Kliniks. Visit the Kafunda Kreative Facebook page to find out more about their endeavors and catch a replay of the interview with the link below.
AGANZA TAKES ON A DIRECTING ROLE FOR A NEW M-NET TV SERIES
This fall, Aganza Kisaka had the privilege of joining nine other female writers to conjure and birth a new TV Series called Mama & Me under the close supervision of award winning writer and producer, Dilman Dila.
Soon after the writing process, Aganza took on the project as Director and got this baby dramedy on its feet. This is the first ever television series for Aganza to direct and as you can imagine of any massive feat, it came with much trepidation. But after a few weeks of potholes, rainy days, and insomnia, Aganza was still standing strong and delivered eight hilarious and dramatic episodes.
Mama & Me is set to grace our TV sets this November on Pearl Magic so keep your ears to the ground
PLAYWRIGHTS RESIDENCY WITH TEBERE ARTS FOUNDATION
The Tebere Arts Foundation playwrights residency took an interesting and exciting turn as Covid-19 presented the participants, with unique challenges: Online rehearsals and readings, online feedback sessions, online performances and a diverse international audience for the culminating dialogue of the works created during the three month residency.
Tebere Arts Foundation is unique in supporting new Ugandan work that can be viewed internationally and nurturing a generation of future Ugandan playwrights. Aganza highlights that she was honoured to participate as part of the premiere cohort to this venture. "I really benefitted from the dramaturgical support it wrought and the dialogue that was erupted about the new wave of online theatre. I can't wait to see an increase of Ugandan pieces and playwrights being featured worldwide."
During the residency, Kisaka finished her hour long play, Killing Time, that follows the journey of two comical middle aged village men who seek a better life. The play was directed by Amooti Wubosobozi and acted by Vicent Sekasanvu and Michael Sseggujja.
UGANDA FILM FESTIVAL BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
"Achieving the Best Supporting Actress Award was a pleasant end of year surprise of 2019 that came through a phone call" beams Aganza Kisaka.
When Kisaka won her first Award for Best Actress at Pearl International Film Festival, that too was a phone call surprise and she says that one of her actor friends told her that, "now that you have a PIFF award, you'll get a UFF Award." She doubted him but he was pretty confident and right . Despite this,her doubt increased when she saw the fiery line up of actresses in her category for the UFF Award. Thankful to have a legitimate work excuse to escape the red carpet event she promptly shut-out any hopes of win and focused on her tasks which was closing the Kampala International Theatre Festival.
The day after the awards ceremony, Kisaka narrates that her good friend and director, Aaron Zziwa called her in the and announced the great news. When she did not believe the news he hang up and called again for emphasis. This is only the beginning for Aganza Kisaka of many awards to come. A lady whose work speaks for her.
KAMPALA INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL 2019
Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF) 2019 was held at the Ndere Cultural Center and the Uganda Museum from the 26th to 30th November 2019. The festival brought together renowned playwrights, directors and celebrated actors, costumers and stage designers from all over the world.
This edition invited productions and workshop readings from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
This edition of the festival was led by the Tebere Arts Foundation, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director, Asiimwe Deborah Kawe. Alongside her was Karishma Bhagani, Associate Artistic Director of Tebere Arts Foundation, Associate Producer Aganza Kisaka, and Faisal Kiwewa of Bayimba Cultural Foundation.
EMERGING ARTISTS INTENSIVE LAB
The Emerging Artists Intensive Lab is a two week long residency and creative lab series that provides artists with adequate resources to develop their work hosted by Tebere Arts Foundation.
In this years iteration of the program, Aganza Kisaka came on board to facilitate a voice and speech workshop where she used space, shape and movement exercises to get the artists out of their heads and into their bodies.
YOUTH FOR FILM PROJECT
The Youth for Film Project is an initiative by Film 256 to equip young film makers in the rural areas of Uganda with the basic skills they will require to make a film.
This iteration of the 10 day intensive lab took place in Kasese region and was facilitated by some of the leading women film makers in Uganda. Among them was Aganza Kisaka who taught a class on acting for the camera. The lab culminated in a film written, directed and performed by the 18 students.