Interviews

Prompt Chat: Durban theatre legend, Caroline Smart.

Photo Source: eThewini Living Legends
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Durban based actress, director and scriptwriter Caroline Smart.

She’s worked in the industry for a number of years and continues to remain a faithful practitioner. A theatre veteran and known as an eThekwini Living Legend, Prompt Side Entertainment caught up with Durban’s Caroline Smart to find out more about what she gets up to within the entertainment scene in South Africa.

 

Hi Caroline, Thank you for making time to chat to us at Prompt Side. Could you tell us more about what you do, and your role within the arts scene in South Africa?

I am an actress, director and scriptwriter and have worked in all mediums of drama – theatre, radio, film and television. I am proud to have received a number of theatre awards and am also honoured to have been chosen as an eThekwini Living Legend. I am a specialized voice coach for speech. I not only train people who want to improve their speech for theatre or MC work but those who need to communicate effectively to improve their skills. This includes people like teachers, lawyers and sales personnel.

With such vast experience and continued presence within the industry, what would you say has been the highlight of your career thus far?

I would say being chosen by Richard E Grant to appear in his film directorial debut “Wah-Wah” working alongside such noted British film stars such as Gabriel Byrne, Julie Walters and Miranda Richardson.

What is it that has kept you so faithful to the arts in SA over the years?

A mild sense of insanity, I suppose! But seriously, I believe if you have been blessed with a talent you have no other option than stay true to presenting it to the best of your ability.

What would you say are some of the limitations and challenges currently faced within the industry?

When the economy is down, the first things to go are luxuries and therefore arts and entertainment invariably suffer. South Africa is also a sports-driven country. There is a perception that because you provide entertainment, as it were, the job’s a breeze. Having no clue of the hours of rehearsal, learning lines and moves and working at times when other people relaxed. I remember a well-known conductor saying that people often asked him: “What do you do for a real job?”

In regard to the recent debacle on the health of South African theatre, would you say that our theatre is dying? Why?

If theatre is dying, then I would have empty pages on artSMart! It’s not very healthy in terms of income-earning for the practitioners but I don’t believe it’s dying. There’s too much passion involved in fighting for its survival.

Contrary to popular belief, sustaining a career in the arts can become tricky when it comes to securing a solid monthly income. What is your view on this, and would you encourage a career in the entertainment industry?

I would only encourage a career in the entertainment industry– talent having been established – if the person has stamina and reliability and is not expecting to make a fortune. And also happy to work the hours required for theatre. I have a huge respect for the arts practitioners in Durban because it is a battle. Most of our performing arts graduates leave for Johannesburg where there is a much stronger theatre industry as well as film and television work.

Tell us a little more about artSMart and the services offered.

artSMart came into being after D’ARTS – the monthly arts magazine I produced for the Durban Arts Association – collapsed due to lack of funding. I simply transferred from paper to online! It is a dedicated KZN arts website – carrying information on all disciplines. It is a voluntary effort on my part as well as the dedicated people who do reviews for artSMart. My huge thanks is also due to the artSMart advertisers who help cover some of the production costs.

What is the culture around arts journalism in South Africa? And how do arts practitioners respond to criticism?

If you are putting yourself in the public eye, you have to learn to take criticism. Sometimes it’s justified. Sometimes it isn’t. But I believe that criticism should always be taken seriously and not discouraged. Also good to remember that as a performer you are always competing against yourself.

Where do you see South African theatre 10 years from now?

Hopefully with audiences that will embrace theatre as part of their lives. The work that Assitej is doing in children’s theatre is impressive, creating a new generation who will be doing just that.

Are there any projects you are currently working on?

The next theatre production in sight is “Hinterland” by Duncan Buwalda. I have directed three seasons so far, two at the National Arts Festival. It received four Naledi nominations this year after its season at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton and is going to Artscape in Cape Town in August/September.

How can people stay in touch?

I can be contacted on Facebook and my email address is csmart@iafrica.com

artSMart can be found at http://news.artsmart.co.za

If you send me a proper press release by email with a low resolution photo as an attached jpeg, it will get out onto the site fairly quickly.

 

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