AS EVER, BESSIE
AS EVER, BESSI This new South African production will have its world premier at the National Arts Festival in the Arena Programme on the 5th of July 2016 and will have 5 performances. On our return to Cape Town we plan to have an extended run.
About This Project
As Ever Bessie – Needs YOUR help!
As Ever, Bessie written and directed by Bobbie Fitchen. Staring Denise Newman and Ntombi Makhutshi. The play is set in the Embakasi airport in Nairobi in 1977. Bessie Head has never flown on an international flight. She is alone and panicked, as she has never left the African soil. A stranger stops to assist her and initially the encounter is uncomfortable and Bessie is hostile, however due to a series of events, they share personal stories in a very public space that ultimately becomes a transformative experience for both of them.
The story deals with pertinent universal issues: racial prejudice, religious intolerance, feminism, rape , exile and mental illness.
Currently, we have been sponsored by the National Arts Festival and a private benefactor, however we still have a shortfall of R60 000. This is needed to cover the costs of transportation and accommodation for our eight cast and crew during the festival. Plus we need to cover our production costs, which include props, animation back screen, lighting and a live soundscape. At present, cast and production team are working pro-bono which is not ideal, however a partial payment is realistic if we meet our funding appeal target.
Our dream is for this production to be sufficiently successful in order to have a life beyond Grahamstown. For that to happen, we will require strong financial backing. Currently we are very excited to have several invitations for future productions, both nationally and internationally including the Artscape Theatre, theatre venues in Botswana, Pietermaritzburg and the Hilton Festival and we are working tirelessly to achieve this goal, but your help is greatly needed.
What We Need & What You Get
The funding target of R10,000 will be used for travel and accommodation in Grahamstown.
We are appealing for the use of a kombi or a vehicle that can transport 8 people and our props.
We have managed to source most of the costumes and props in second hand shops, however we will need to hire one or two important items that we currently cannot find. For example, we need a back screen for the animation projections and some technical sound equipment.
Petrol Cape Town/Grahamstown return.
Accommodation and S&T for a week.
We have a breakdown of our expenses, please check out for our line item budget for Grahamstown here: Proposed Budget – As, Ever Bessie.PDF
SO WHAT CAN WE OFFER YOU IN RETURN FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
For a R100 donation:
A PERSONALIZED THANK YOU CARD ON OUR SOCIAL MEDIA – Denise Newman, Ntombi Makhutshi and Bobbie Fitchen will personally be thanking you on a public post on our social media accounts.
For a R250 donation:
INSTAGRAM THANK YOU MESSAGE – A video clip will be posted to our Instagram account thanking you personally.
A SIGNED POSTCARD TO YOUR LOVED ONE – You may want your mom, auntie, cousin, partner or loved pet to receive a signed AS EVER, BESSIE post card in the mail. Old school novelty.
For a R300 donation:
BRANDED CHOCOLATES – Chocolate Time (www.chocolatetime.co.za) is offering vouchers for custom branded chocolate. This offer is only available to orders in Southern Africa, Nigeria, and East African countries.
PODCAST – We are offering a podcast download of the complete play, read by Denise Newman as Bessie Head and Ntombi Makhutshi as Dr Caroline Nandi Habib, including the original soundscape, by Nick Matthews for a donation of R300.00. This will be available after the NAF performance.
For a R600 donation:
Both of the above
– OR –
SIGNED POSTER – The incredible illustrator and animator, ARCHIE BIRCH is offering a signed copy of the As Ever, Bessie poster designed by Archie. The poster very cleverly reflects the personality of Bessie Head, the character that Denise Newman portrays in the play.
– OR –
A PUBLIC ENDORSEMENT – We will share 2 pre-approved posts to our Facebook page and on our newsletter on your company/organisation or a chosen organisation of your choice (terms and conditions apply i.e. organisation/company/cause will be reviewed first and a decision made at our discretion) encouraging others to follow and support.
For a R1000 donation:
SIGNED GEORGE HALLETT PRINT – We are also very proud to have the generous support of the international photographer, George Hallett. George was the official photographer for the Heinemann African Writers’ series, and has some wonderful photographs of Bessie Head. a Very limited amount of prints of these signed photographs can be yours. A print of your choice is available for a contribution of R1000.00. You can see the selected photographs in our photo gallery.
Coming up next: A limited amount of spectacular signed wildlife photographs taken by Marine Drouilly in Botswana Delta will be up for grabs soon. To see more of Marine’s stunning wildlife photos click on www.marine-drouilly.com
Watch this space for our announcement regarding Greenpop!
Keep checking in with us, as new offerings will be posted every couple of days.
With the help of your generous donations, we will be able to achieve the following together:
Through this theatre performance, we hope to not only commemorate the life of this incredible writer, but also provide a much deeper understanding of Bessie Head’s past, which has sadly not been widely documented.
The play touches on some very real and painful topics that are often left out of everyday conversation. As Ever, Bessie deals with pertinent issues – mental illness, racism, sexual abuse, seeking a sense of identity, political exile and the ethnic and cultural polarisation. Themes that resonate even today and need to be spoken about if we wish to see a real change in the world.
Even though this play is the first one that Bobbie Fitchen has written and will be directing, she has had many years experience as an actress and has collaborated with many actors and musicians to organically develop an integrated arts methodology that speaks to the fundamentals of actively engaging participants. Over the past 10 years Bobbie has been involved with HIV/AIDS education that encourages creative engagement through drama, storytelling and Body Mapping. Furthermore, the production boasts an exceptional cast and crew who are all well-recognised and respected professionals in their various fields. Contributions will aid us all to do what we do best – inspiring change in the world, one show at a time!
Risks & Challenges
Our first and greatest challenge is to ensure we have sufficient funding to get our show to Grahamstown. We believe that once we are there, the production will be successful and we will have an opportunity to secure further funding and interest for the a life well beyond the National Arts Festival.
Other Ways You Can Help
We’ve been working tirelessly on getting all our social media ducks in a row and creating valuable and meaningful content. Please take a look at our social links and help us by sharing our content to get the word out and make some noise about our campaign.
And that’s all there is to it.
We would like to hear from you as well. You can contact us at [email protected]
Denise Newman has been a professional actor for more than 30 years. Starting out at the Space Theatre gave her the opportunity to create complex characters that resonated with truth and honesty. This experience included working with some of the country’s great writer/directors including ATHOL FUGARD, PIETER DIRK UYS, BARNEY SIMON and later LARA FOOT. Denise trained under Alexander von Raumondt, an exponent of “Method Acting”.
In 1980 she was cast in her first lead role – CITY LOVERS – adapted for film from a short story by Nadine Gordimer which deals with the subject of love across the colour line in apartheid South Africa. Over the years she has moved between theatre, film and television effortlessly, as well as teaching and developing young actors in South Africa.
Cold Case: Revisiting Dulcie September is her theatrical tribute to the slain activist.
Ntombie Makhutshi BA Drama.( UCT.)
I was accepted to study at the New Africa Theatre Association in 2001 and was fortunate to study under Fatima Dike, Dumile Magodla, Ian Bruce & Ina Bruce. In 2002 I was selected to tour with ‘The Island And The Apple Box” The New Africa Theatre’s schools production in partnership with Robben Island.
In 2006 I was selected to represent UCT Drama School at the Hague in Holland at De Appel Teater, a collaborative production between Wits, UCT & De Appel Teater.
In 2007 I was part of ‘Encounter’ , that went to Denmark, directed by Chris Weare. I was nominated for the Fleur du Cap Most Promising Student as Poppie Nongena directed by Sandra Temmingh.
In 2010 I won Fleur du Cap Best Supporting Actress for my role as Stella in Nicholas Spagnoletti’s London Road directed by Lara Bye.
From 2010 until 2015 did extensive performances for Engen Phambili Roadshow written and directed by Megan Furniss.
In 2015 performed ‘African Times’ at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown written and directed by Pieter Dirk Uys.
I have just completed ‘A Broken Wing’ a collaboration piece by Mandla Mbothwe for the Spiritual Festival 2016. at Artscape.
Other collabrative performances include ‘ Met Air’ for Metropolitan Life directed by the late Peter Hayes.
BOBBIE FITCHEN (Writer & Director)
For the past 30 years I have used drama as a tool to engage creatively be it in a formal or non- formal environment. When I am not performing professionally, I collaborate with artists and musicians and together we have organically developed an integrated arts methodology that speaks to the fundamentals of actively engaging participants. Over the past 10 years I have been involved with HIV/AIDS education that encourages creative engagement through drama, story-telling and Body Mapping.
Professionally I am both a film and stage actress, and voice artist. I started adapting for stage several South African stories, JM Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country, Olive Schriener’s “ Story of an African Farm”, Pauline Smith’s short stories. I have over the years adapted many children’s stories for Pre and Primary school productions.
“AS EVER, BESSIE” is my first play and was inspired by my interest in Bessie Head’s background. I lived in Botswana for several years in the early 80’s and met her. There was always a ‘Bessie Story”, her ability to offend and upset people was legendary. I knew that she had a very disturbed childhood, and read extensively about her, her letters to Randolf Vigne and Paddy Kitchen and the very comprehensive biography by Gillian Stead Eilersen ‘ BESSIE HEAD. THUNDER BEHIND HER EARS”, were some of my sources.
I also have spoken to many people who knew her and have shared many excellent Bessie anecdotes. I find there are many young South African’s who do not know of her work, and many people who have experienced Bessie, as a writer, know nothing about her background and her challenges living with a mental illness, brought on, I believe by her very stressful life. If this play can inspire people to read Bessie Head and understand more about her circumstances, then I think Bessie herself would be ‘Well Pleased”.
The production team are headed up by very experienced and talented individuals.
1. Archie Birch is an artist, illustrator, and animator. Archie is not only a consummate professional but he is also a teacher and lecturer. He is passionate about sharing his skills and developing young people.
2. So too is Nick Matthews a local and international soundscape artist. Nick works as a lecturer at AFDA which is the premier film school in South Africa. Nick is going to use AS EVER, BESSIE as a student project. Together with Archie they will mentor students who will ultimately design a live soundscape and travel with the production to National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.
3. Felicity Hartley, herself a fine artist, fibre artist and teacher, is designing the costumes and prop designer for the production. She is working closely with Archie and Nick and will be assisting with the mentorship of the young students chosen to work on this production.
4. George Hallett, world renowned photographer and was the official photographer for the covers of Heinemann African Writers Series. He has very generously given us permission to use all his images of Bessie Head, who was a close personal friend.
The project also received a the blessing and support from some very notable people who knew and respect Bessie. Among others, Alice Walker whose poem that she wrote in the form of a letter to herself is recited during the play. “I’m so happy to learn of your play about the great writer, Bessie Head. May all be well with you as you carry the words of Bessie Head, and her life, into the world”, said Walker. The play also gained the support of Randolph Vigne (Bessie’s friend, and publisher of many of her short stories during his time as editor of The New African – a radical publication that focused on publishing black writers, both African and South African), the Bessie Head Trust, Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock publishers in London