Meeting with Yonela Sithela and Maggi Fernando

An Interview with Magnet Theatre Alumni

YS: My name is Yonela, and my surname is Sithela. I am a Magnet Theatre ex-trainee. I did my training in 2012 and graduated in 2013. I’m a performer. I’m an artist. I can sing. I can dance. But, now, I’m working for Magnet Theatre as a facilitator.

MF: Hi, I’m Maggi Fernando. I’m originally from Angola but I’ve been in South Africa for 20 years […] I came to train in Magnet Theatre in 2010. And that’s when I was introduced to the Theatre. So, I’ve been a trainee and I graduated in 2011 and Magnet helped me get into UCT [University of Cape Town] and so […] I started UCT in 2012 and I graduated in 2014. I have a diploma in ‘Theatre Making and Performance’ and I majored in ‘Theatre Making’. I’ve also been an intern for the EPWP [Expanded Public Works Programme] at Magnet Theatre for two years? A year and a half! And then I was a facilitator as well for a year. It was with [the] Culture Gangs [programme]. So, we [would] go into communities and we teach groups Theatre, we introduce them to Theatre. Some of them have already been doing that with Culture Gangs but the others that I worked with, for example, from the Retreat area, they’d never [done] it so it was a very nice initiative.

Photo Credit: Magnet Theatre

YS: Magnet gave me a skill of being a better performer, from what I was before. So, it helped me be more confident. It helped me to be more able to stand in front of a large audience. And with [my] nervousness, it’s something that we all know is always there, it’s natural but now I’m able to control my nerves. So, the training helped me a lot […] When I was busy training, I never thought […] I would be a facilitator one day. My focus was just on being an actor so I thought that’s all I wanted to do but then when the opportunity of me being a facilitator came to me, I didn’t say no. And then I took the job […] and I am busy doing the job now […] Magnet has taught me how to share what I learned as a trainee [with] other people.

“it helped me be more confident” – Yonela Sithela

Photo Credit: Magnet Theatre

MF: On my part, Magnet taught me confidence. I always speak about confidence when I teach as a facilitator. I teach about confidence because it’s the one thing that I’ve felt I lacked a lot of. I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know how to voice my opinions and Theatre allowed that space for me to find the confidence to be able to transfer my information, my knowledge and also to learn and gain experience […] It taught me a lot on learning one’s self, learning about myself within the sphere of the community, within the sphere of the world. And how to observe, I think the observation was a big thing for me because now, when I walk, I’m always constantly thinking, “Oh wow, look at how that person walks” […] When I went to UCT, I was fortunate because Magnet had already taught me the basics. So, it was quite easy, I enjoyed university because I thought, “I did that. I did that [already].” I think a lot of the work went into the theory at university, where here I had all the practical arrangements. Magnet also introduced me to […] teaching. I enjoy teaching. I’m actually hoping to study for a teacher’s diploma next year and that is because they’ve given me the opportunity to be a facilitator […] empower[ing] young people is [now] really, really rooted inside of me and I’m grateful to Magnet for that.

“empower[ing] young people is [now] really, really rooted inside of me and I’m grateful to Magnet for that” – Maggi Fernando

MF: Magnet is a very family kind of space. It’s beautiful to work in the space because you never feel like you’re alone or isolated. I feel very privileged to have been at Magnet because, firstly, being from a different country, it’s not easy to get into programmes like this. Then, having a programme that gives you a bursary – you don’t have to give a cent. It’s your commitment, your time…

YS: Discipline.

“It’s beautiful to work in the space because you never feel like you’re alone or isolated” – Maggi Fernando

MF: Yes! That is a little price to pay to be in this kind of space because it opens a whole new world for you. It really opens doors and I think it grounds you as a person.

YS: At some of the institutions you have to pay but here they just want you to commit yourself. Just show up, do your work otherwise, they give you money to come here. So, there’s no complaint about, “I don’t have money, I don’t give money for lunch.” They give you money, so it’s nice to be here.

“it opens a whole new world for you” – Maggi Fernando


YS: Why Magnet should carry on with this? Why Magnet should be given more funds to keep the training programme? The thing is, when they do auditions, a lot of people will come … about 100 and something. But they [can] only take 20. So that means there is a lot of people outside who wants to be trained, who wish to be able to be employable, trained from Magnet Theatre.


YS: Ya, and anyway the other ones […] you have to pay […] Like money to pay for your travel. So, this one is a bit different because they give you the stipend to cover. So, it’s more like everyone wants to come because, besides from you getting money, you get to be trained in Physical Theatre. So, since there is a big number of people who wish […] to be here […it is important they get] even more funds to keep on doing this work […] There is a lot of people, a lot of youth that wants to study Drama but they have nowhere else to go. Yes, acting is a raw thing but you need to have those basics of how to act, what to do, how to do it. So, we need this opportunity.

“There is a lot of people, a lot of youth that wants to study Drama but they have nowhere else to go” – Yonela Sithela

MF: We really do need it. Like I said, it was a privilege and I think many people would like to be part of that privilege and I think it pains a lot of Magnet [staff] when they can’t take more […] I want to earn such a lot that I can give back. It’s always a dream that you want to earn a kind of amount that you can say that, “I would like to give back one day for another learner” […] keep the life in this space!

“I want to earn such a lot that I can give back” – Maggi Fernando

Please click here to access Dialogue’s other posts in this series of interviews with alumni and staff of Magnet Theatre.

The Full-Time Training and Job Creation Programme receives support from TK FoundationRand Merchant BankOppenheimer Memorial TrustHosken Consolidated Investments Ltd FoundationRolf-Stefan Nussbaum FoundationAmpersand FoundationPotjie FoundationBusiness Arts South AfricaWestern Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports Expanded Public Works ProgrammeJoan St Leger Lindbergh Charitable Trust, and Distell.

Transcribed by Norah Ringma
© Dialogue Community Performance / Magnet Theatre