Amee Lekas is the first recipient of the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary for 2023 and as her award, has selected to bring Reza de Wet’s dark and edgy classic African Gothic to life, presented in association with DALRO.
African Gothic, de Wet’s most performed play, has a turbulent history. First written in Afrikaans as Diepe Grond it performed to an uproar at Kampustoneel at Rhodes University in 1985. De Wet’s subversion of a well-loved idyllic rural Afrikaans story by Alba Bouwer resulted in a legal case against De Wet which forced her to change the name of her characters. Dark and disturbing, its first professional run the following year at The Market Theatre gave audiences a glimpse into the Afrikaans psyche, exposing the treacherous waters that ran beneath the white Afrikaans apartheid veneer at the height of the State of Emergency.
Being a high school drama educator, Amee Lekas - who follows in the footsteps of an incredible alumni of 25 past Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary winners that span 14 years and include Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners Nicola Elliott, Amy Jephta, Thando Doni and Mahlatsi Mokgonayana - chose to direct African Gothic as it is a provocative setwork that she deals with in the classroom.
“I chose African Gothic because Reza De Wet wrote this play in a time when it was unheard of to talk about something so dangerous, but real. She exposed the unspoken that probably gave many people sleepless nights. She confronted them with the truth. As a theatre maker and Dramatic Arts Educator, that is what is expected of us. If we don't do it, we are fraudulent.
I am just following by example. It is the reason I chose to work with a diverse team. We are people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, time, and different training. It's important for me to remind us artists to see the possibilities to work with different artists. People you would have never thought you would have worked with.
But most of all, I wanted to prove to my learners that they can tell any story they relate to while working with anyone who is willing to be brave with them”.
Amee grew up in the small town of Willowmore in the Karoo and studied drama at Stellenbosch University. She has a growing reputation as an Afrikaans playwright, winning Teksmark, a project of the KKNK, twice. In 2017, the fragments of her play Die Dans van die Watermeid led to a commission by The Baxter Theatre and under the direction of Jason Jacobs, a Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary winner himself in 2016, the production was extremely well received. Set in her home town amongst its myths and folklore, Die Dans van die Watermeid was described as an emotionally thrilling and socially charged play.
Whilst Amee is not new to directing, coming into African Gothic has been a vital experience for her. With design by Nell van der Merwe and a cast that includes theatre and TV stalwarts Elton Landrew and Celeste Matthews Wannenburgh alongside an established Karli Heine and emerging Siyamthanda Bangani, African Gothic through the bursary has provided her with a rare opportunity to carve out time, explore and sharpen her directing skills – all with much thanks to the National Arts Council and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) that has supported the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary for this year.
And with the deliberate choice of African Gothic as a text studied by young people, there is opportunity for the play to live on long after this first run.
African Gothic runs from the 1st – 6th December.
Tickets are R120 each with R70 for school students.
Bookings can be made online at www.theatrearts.co.za or can be bought at the door. Theatre Arts, Methodist Church Hall, cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory, 7925