Princess Mhlongo: The drama queen

2011-06-10 16:14

Theatre director Princess Mhlongo is the kind of person who exudes energy and intelligence. She is a young woman who is making strides not only in a male-dominated arena, but in one that traditionally expects an internship of many, many years from its practitioners.

Far too graceful to be boastful, the evidence is there that she was just as much of a shining light as a student.

Which is why she made her professional directorial debut in 2008 with And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses less than a year after graduating and before she turned 25.

On the cusp of her 26th birthday, she is directing So What’s New? at the Market Theatre in Newtown.

 Coincidentally, it is a play she first directed while she was a student at Tshwane University of Technology.

Coming back to the play now, she says: “I have a more mature approach and I am evolving into the job.” That maturity shows in her understanding of the challenges facing her generation.

“I think my generation has been fortunate to receive a lot, like education.

My education has shaped me and there are a lot of us.

I am not a gem, there are lots like me.”

Part of her work is industrial theatre, which she takes to schools – both urban and rural.

“I wonder what they are thinking.

What are they dreaming? And if they are not dreaming, what will they do? Young people have to make plans to make opportunities for themselves.”

Mhlongo says she didn’t stumble on her career. She realised what she wanted to do, researched it and pursued it. Next year she will take her own dreams to the next level.

She has been invited to be part of a prestigious young directors project in Austria.

With a self-deprecating laugh, she says: “I am representing Africa – drums out.”

She rolls her arms like she’s playing the big bass drum in a marching band.

But she gets serious again when discussing Trapped, the self-penned play she will be taking along to the project.

She says the idea to develop herself as a writer came when she couldn’t get the rights to direct a play she wanted.

She wondered where she’d get work and decided the best solution was to write plays herself. Yet another example of Mhlongo’s wise-beyond-her-years insight into that truism: the universe helps those who help themselves.

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