WHEN The Playhouse Company called for proposals to be part of the 2023 Community Arts Festival, Bhakti Theatre proposed The Gita written and directed by Bhaktimarg Swami.
"Out of 91 applications, 37 theatre companies auditioned and out of the 31, ten were selected," said Krsangi Radhe dasi, communications director for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness SA.
"Bhakti Theatre was elated. However, through the excellent mentorship program, the team was pushed to make the story relatable and relevant to any South African. We were most fortunate to be mentored by Jerry Pope, who expertly guided us with kindness and deep appreciation and acceptance of our spiritual roots.
"Rukmini Dasi and Girisha Naicker worked hard and developed the story of a young South African girl, Thembi. The teenager was raised by her gogo (grandmother) in a rural village. She receives a scholarship from a prominent high school in the city and encounters the city’s allures and cold reception.
"Wanting to belong, she sacrifices the values she was raised with. Her world collapses when she learns that her gogo suffered a heart attack, and in that very moment of grief, she receives a book, The Bhagavad Gita – The Divine Song. While reading The Divine Song on her journey back to the village, Thembi relates to Arjuna the protagonist, a warrior perplexed by the impending death of his beloved family.
"Arjuna approaches Krishna, the Supreme Wise Mystic, who is the main character in the book, and through their conversation, Thembi questions the eternality of spirit, explores the nature of the mind, and finds solace for her grieving heart."
Said Rukmini Dasi: “This community arts festival was eye-opening to me. It was testing in all the right ways and pushed the limits of what we thought possible on a stage. Through the mentors, we were prodded to think deeply about how a spiritual message can be received effectively.
"Meeting other playwrights and actors opened my mind to new opportunities and techniques. And our team’s sacrifice for a greater cause kept me inspired."
Said Gaura Bhumi, an actress: "I really appreciated how the mentors pushed us in a way so that the best came out of the performance. Their guidance was geared towards making us better and elevating the level of our show. My eyes are opened to newer and unique storytelling methods, which I look forward to exploring in the future.”
Nontobeko Patience Goldstone, who played gogo, said this was her debut performance
“This marks the beginning of a new era where we get to understand that Krishna belongs to all of us regardless of colour or creed.”