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Had University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) drama and journalism honours student Kline Smith not taken a seat in the wrong class, he might never have clinched best director and best writer in the student category for his debut at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Still reeling from the success of his stage production Mob Feel, Smith said yesterday that he had not even intended entering the famed festival’s student theatre programme.
“It’s a weird story actually. I walked past a journalism class, and saw lots of my drama classmates. It was the beginning of the semester (last year) and I thought I had missed something, so I went in and sat down. The lecturer was reading (former Drum writer) Can Themba’s short story Mob Passion. I was riveted.”
Hooked on Themba’s portrayal of forbidden love and ethnic clashes in 1950s Westbury, Smith was inspired to write his proposal for his first festival.
“The class didn’t even have anything to do with me,” the Eshowe man recalled.
The wins have guaranteed the 24-year-old both mentoring and a budget to create a piece that will debut in the Fringe category at the 2013 National Arts Festival.
He explains that it would be a true test and a step towards putting on a play on the festival’s main stage.
While Smith has attracted the attention of notable theatre figures like playwright Lara Foot Newton and American lighting designer Kathy Perkins, he attributes his success to his family, cast, and the staff of the drama department and UKZN’s Hexagon Theatre in Pietermaritzburg.
“To me they are the best theatre practitioners in the country as they have years of experience and skill… without them I’d be lost,” he said.
And then there is his family who “drive all the way from Eshowe to see every single one of my productions”.
Smith, is currently working on a musical titled The Mystery Tour.
He will again be staging Mob Feel at the Hexagon Theatre on July 25 and July 26, and at UKZN’s Howard College on July 27.
Aside from pursuing his Master’s degree in media, he also plans to take four shows to Grahamstown next year.