Artistically groomed on the developmental theatre stage, during her high school years with the K-Cap group in KwaMashu, actress Brenda Mhlongo today boasts a host of international accolades, including two recent awards.

In October, Mhlongo won a Premier Theatre Musical Award in Spain for Best New Artist, for her role as Rafiki in The Lion King musical.

Then in late November she walked off with a Broadway Spain Award for Best Leading Actress, for the same role.

In an interview with Tonight, Mhlongo explained that she’s been travelling overseas with The Lion King for five years: “I started in Germany and from there I toured the US and then moved on to the European circuit.”

Mhlongo admitted that during her pursuit of a theatrical career, she never thought she’d come this far. “When I started out at K-Cap Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre in KwaMashu, I only visualised myself doing theatre in Durban. Then, when I performed at The Playhouse, I thought, ‘I want to go to Joburg’, and when I performed in Joburg, I said: ‘I have to get to Broadway.’”

Mhlongo believes her start in developmental theatre is of great value and an area of theatre on which there should be more focus.

“Developmental theatre is moving at a very slow pace, yet we have so many passionate and talented kids who want to be involved in the arts.

“The problem is that we have few people who are guiding them and helping them to achieve what they want to in theatre. In New York, for example, the arts are highly regarded and more is invested in it and as a result there is more job creation and more is fed back into the economy,” she explained.

“So the government and business should invest more in developing the arts at a school level. “If we develop these children, in the future they can make big contributions to the local economy,” Mhlongo said, expressing her thoughts.

With a passion for developing the youth in the arts, Mhlongo is involved in training at K-Cap because like her dream for her career, her dream for others is also big. “At the moment I’m involved in some development and training projects in the eThekwini region, but… I’d like train more in other municipalities. I am also looking at releasing my own CD this year,” she explained excitedly. Aside from her theatrical successes, the KwaMashu actress, singer and dancer says music is a great love of hers.

During her international tours she was eyed by the London-based record label Raw For Real and signed up,and went on to release an album with it.

While touring with The Lion King, her music career was put on hold, but Mhlongo says she plans to return to it this year.