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SHELDON CROSS started teaching drama five years ago and is still loving the diversity of students he deals with. But he’s realised that if he ever wants to mount a production and develop his craft as a director, he needs to get on with it.
Though the Capetonian has been pottering away at a particular production all that time, A Delicate Light has changed from the idea he had in his post-grad year at UCT, when he started exploring white South African identity.
Working on rewrites, he got to thinking about how introspective and self-reflective society has become: “Oprah, Dr Phil, self-help books, how we all measure and debate our selves and our thoughts constantly.”
The multiple roles people play, plus a personal connection, got him researching schizophrenia and investigating just how many people suffer from the mental disorder, and this led to the realisation that there are many functioning people who suffer with mental illness.
And that’s how he got to a play with a character who wakes up within her own mind, after being “asleep” for several years.
“How would they navigate who they are, in their mind, this realisation about who they are and what they’ve slept through, and having to come to terms with it,” Cross asked.
“Schizophrenia is more about a shattered self than multiple selves, so how would someone suffering from that try to put back all those pieces of herself?
“She’s faced with all these broken pieces of the mirror that is her, these broken shards of herself.”
Cross currently teaches drama at the Battswood Arts Centre in Grassy Park, which means rehearsing at night, so the rehearsal period has been “longer than normal, but my actress is willing to work at nights”.
He is most impressed by actress Michele Belknap’s ability to keep up with the rapid pace as the movement between time and space is constantly changing.
The play is sometimes frighteningly honest, but he says it is also sometimes funny too.
The title refers to a sensation of looking for clarity on a subject, trying to get out of the darkness of not knowing.
“It’s such a delicate thing, that light building up from yourself. It’s trying to reason, trying to navigate inside yourself.
“How fragile we all are, how delicate we are, that needs to be respected.”
• A Delicate Light plays at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective from October 29 to November 2.