Interviewing Nwabisa Plaatjie

An Interview with an Alumna of Magnet Theatre

Nwabisa Plaatjie was not on the Full-Time Training Programme, but joined Magnet Theatre on their Theatre Making internship programme. Here she shares some of her experiences:

Photo Credit: Magnet Theatre

NP: My name is Nwabisa Plaatjie. I’m from Ugie, Eastern Cape. I came to Cape Town in 2012. I went to the University of Cape Town to study Theatre and Performance, and that’s where I met Mark [Fleishman] and Jennie [Reznek]. Jennie taught me first year Movement and second year, and then she left the university and came full-time to Magnet Theatre. Mark was the course coordinator for the Theatre Making course. So, I was with him from second year, third year and fourth year when I graduated. So, when I graduated with my BA Honours from UCT, Magnet Theatre invited me to apply for their Theatre Making internship programme and that’s how I got to come here.

So, the internship programme was an opportunity that they were giving to two emerging Theatre directors to create work, without having to worry about funding. So, they really created a support structure where you could be in the space for a year and you were being mentored. But, at the same time, you were also part of the training that was happening at a higher scale with the other creatives.

The programme entailed doing two plays, one for Early Years Theatre, from two to seven-year olds, and I did AHA!, and then the other play was for older people and I did 23 years, a month and 7 days. And after people saw that work that I created under the support of Magnet Theatre, it was like doors just opened because a language was starting to form and I was starting to recognise myself as an emerging Theatre maker, with a language and people were interested in my work. So, I applied for different things that were put out and I’m now the recipient of the Theatre Arts Admin Emerging Director’s Bursary Award and I’m also […] the recipient of the Baxter Play Lab Residency. So, I’m the first recipient. They’re trying out the Play Lab Residency and I got to be the first one to apply for that.

“doors just opened […] I was starting to recognise myself as an emerging Theatre maker”

It operates on many levels. On the first instance, I left Magnet with two pieces of Theatre. And that, from the very beginning, that’s something that you can use as an artist. Whether to apply for festivals, to apply for funding, you have a body of work that you can use. But, at the same time, that body of work you can also use to build your own artistic portfolio and make people know more about your work.

So, on one level it’s the actual plays that I’m leaving with, and then something that stays is the support. I’ve left Magnet but I pop in here [….] more than is necessary! And, it’s knowing that I can come here. It’s knowing that I can. There’s a support structure. I know when I can’t do something and I always try to do it by myself […] So there’s that, there’s the support, there’s resources, because after leaving the spaces, we don’t necessarily have access to the internet and printing costs money so you can come here and you can use their resources. The space is available to use and I’ve also inherited a community. Like I said, I was not part of the alumni training and everything but, just by virtue of being at Magnet, or being associated with Magnet, it’s kind of exposed me to another community of people that I have never necessarily shared a space with. Mandla [Mbothwe] was saying earlier today that we’re here because we’re connected by the space and we’ve shared the space and we work together. I’ve not necessarily worked with everyone here, I’ve only worked with one year. I’ve never worked with Mandla on anything. I’ve never worked with Boet Mandla on anything but I felt like I inherited that community the minute I stepped into Magnet Theatre. I felt welcomed by the alumni and I didn’t have to create work with them or be in the space with them and experience something with them, in order to share that network, it came just from a big pot of Magnet Theatre, the company, the family.

“The space is available to use and I’ve also inherited a community”

We don’t always get an opportunity to re-start again. Yes, I came to Cape Town. Most people who study Drama and Theatre Performance were part of community groups or Art groups. Where I came from, there were no Art groups. There was no Theatre. I’d seen a few plays in my lifetime. I was not exposed to this thing that I’m doing now. So even the lessons that I learned in university were only starting to make sense in fourth year. You know that thing when, just as you are about to graduate and you’re just like, “I think it makes sense, I think I understand why in first year I did this”? But, in most cases, some people get that and it’s over, you graduate and you just have to go figure yourself out. But when I got that, and then there was, “Do you want to come to Magnet and do this for a year?” You get to do everything that you are doing in university, you get to meet […] some of the people that taught you in university […] I even had conversations with Jennie as she was doing movement with the trainees. I was like, “Can we go back to the seven degrees of the body and tensions? I forget. Can we go back? I remember you did this in second year but I don’t think I got it.” So, for me, last year was really like being given an opportunity to just step back. Like, “No, I remember doing this. I remember in drama school learning this thing but I’m not sure how we do it. Can we look at it again? Can you help me with it again?” And I got to understand myself more and what I want to do more. Just being given an opportunity for a year to just select, because I think that’s how the training worked. We didn’t have to, because we were the Theatre making interns, but we did the class with the trainees. We could ask to be taught something, we also […] looked at applying for funding and all of that. But, overall, I felt like I was being given the opportunity to re-start again in this thing that I want to do.

“last year was really like being given an opportunity to just step back”

As young people, sometimes you forget. Sometimes you forget to appreciate that the world moves fast and we move on and it’s one opportunity after another opportunity – for some people […] After Magnet has trained you, I think you are quite employable […] after Magnet trains you, people want you, they want to use you. Or, for me, that has been my experience. It’s easy to just do things like that. Sometimes it can all move so fast and we may forget hope but it’s also that place where you come [to] remind yourself. I come here sometimes to remind myself why I am doing the things that I’m doing, why I appreciate it, why […] graduating out of university, and being in a space where I was free to create, made all the difference. In a society where young people are so unemployed, graduates – particularly artists, there’s not enough and, for me, that made the difference – to graduate and there is a job. My family knew there was a job because it was paying me quite decently – but it was a learning opportunity that made a difference, a huge impact, and it literally paved the way for everything.

“after Magnet trains you, people want you, they want to use you”

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