It all started with a wedding in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, nearly three years ago.

There, the director of the Marsh Youth Theater, Rebecca Cervantes, struck up a conversation with the bride, who teaches drama to teenagers at a boarding school in Harare, and the two clicked. So when The Marsh Youth Theater program got a grant to enroll some international students, Cervantes reached out. 

Months later, 10 teenage girls from Zimbabwe and San Francisco have written short plays and will star in their own pieces at the first International Teen Performance Festival at San Francisco’s Marsh theater June 11-12. The performance anthology will be available in-person and will stream online as well. When the lights dim and the theater goes quiet, the young solo performers will take the audience on journeys that range from a polyglot’s adventure to a world in 2043 where global warming has gone to its extreme.

“What I remember is the feel and the authenticity of their stories, and their energy to get these stories out into the world,” said Stephanie Weisman, the founder and artistic director of The Marsh.

Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds, the young performers’ works share similar themes, including social media, parental pressure, career struggles and environmental issues. Some of their works feel like a punch in the stomach. Some purposely make the audience uncomfortable. All are designed to make viewers think.

Sarah Nyakanda, 18, realized global warming was getting worse when she noticed that weather patterns were changing in Zimbabwe. It had started raining in winter, instead of summer, and was “blazing hot” in December, she says.

“Weather pattern changes have been occurring throughout the world,” Nyakanda wrote in an email interview. “However, it began to (sink in) when it was affecting me and my country.”

She will present “Times U,” a piece that depicts the world in 2043, when the government has to provide artificial air, manufactured water and lab-made fruits and vegetables. The storyline follows how this life affects people from different sectors of life, including those who least expected to be affected.

Nyakanda remembers the first class of the workshop — a Zoom session that went from 8 to 11 p.m. — was both exciting and nerve-racking. Throughout the weeks that followed, the girls in Zimbabwe encountered challenges ranging from unstable or laggy Internet connections to power outages that left the girls sitting in the dark, their phones the only source of light.

But the young performers bonded naturally. Soon …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Zimbabwe, SF girls bring voices to Marsh youth theater festival

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