Art

Competition opens doors for artistes

NPAS

Standing, from Left: NPAS acting coach and actor Fanuel Mulwa and NPAS founder and artistic director Stuart Nash. Seated, from left: Monologue winners Shirleen Ishenye, Brandon Wacheke and Geoffrey Karabilo. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

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Summary

  • NPAS’ artistic director, Stuart Nash, started his free online acting classes for youth way back in April, at the outset of the Covid shutdown.
  • NPAS’ classes have proved so popular that they have attracted hundreds of Kenyan youth (from 10 up to 25) as well as the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage and its Minister, Ambassador Dr Amina Mohammed.

NPAS’ artistic director, Stuart Nash, started his free online acting classes for youth way back in April, at the outset of the Covid shutdown.

“I thought we’d just hold acting and singing classes for a month or two, but instead, they’ve been running ever since,” Stuart says.

NPAS’ classes have proved so popular that they have attracted hundreds of Kenyan youth (from 10 up to 25) as well as the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage and its Minister, Ambassador Dr Amina Mohammed who has endorsed NPAS’s online classes and those the Studio plans to start in schools early next year.

Dr Amina was also guest of honour last Sunday night at the fifth and final NPAS-sponsored ‘Monologue Challenge’ where she announced the winners in the acting, singing and People’s Choice categories.

Each ‘Challenge’ had been held after several weeks of training in acting and singing conducted by former NPAS cast members, Fanuel Mulwa (in acting) and Hellen Mtawale (in singing). Meanwhile Stuart had given classes in Production focusing on NPAS’s upcoming production of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ‘Ndia hika Ndeeda’ (‘I’ll marry when I want”) which will be staged (both in Kikuyu and English) after their production of the musical comedy, Sister Act.

This last Monologue Challenge promised a bundle of goodies for the winners, including an all-expenses paid holiday in Zanzibar for the winning actor and a recording contract for the winning singer with the well-known music producer, Ihaji.

So the competition was stiff. The acting judges, Martin Githinji, Kevin Ogola, and Stuart Nash didn’t have an easy time picking the winners. Neither did judges Hellen Mtawale and Ihaji for singing. The choice was between the top 15 actors and top four singers all of whom performed on Sunday night.

In acting, Gabriel Kanja was second runner up while Lena Simbaoni was first runner up. The first prize went to Geoffrey Karabilo, 25, for his stunning psychological performance of a seemingly happy-go-lucky guy who’d buried his childhood pain of seeing his murdered parents’ bloody bodies. Now in a therapy session with a friend, his latent anguish and outrage exploded before our eyes. It was a powerful and startlingly emotive performance worthy of the first prize.

Brandon Wacheke, 15, won the recording contract for his colourful performance of the Heart the Band’s popular hit, Ukimwona’ And the People’s Choice award went to Shirleen Ishenye, 20, who was the only NPAS student to submit videos for consideration in both singing and acting. She was also the only finalist to receive nearly half the 1,000 plus votes that her fan-base posted.

All three winners have impressive performance resumes. Geoffrey was in Kenya Schools Drama Festivals which gave him the desire to become a great actor and join KU’s theatre and film school where he is a second year. He also had a small role in NPAS’s Sarafina where he learned lots being in the production even as he performed in various KU plays.

Wacheke, who says he’s a second tenor, has been singing in public since childhood. This second-year student at Nairobi School, has been performing in churches, at weddings, in Kenya Music Festivals, and just recently, he recorded Sang’s Noomba which is now on YouTube.

Finally, while attending both singing and acting classes at NPAS online, Shirleen has also been busy posting her short films on Instagram, WhatsApp, and even YouTube (where’s she has got her own channel). Her acting performance on Sunday night was a mesmerising monologue on the strength of women adapted from a scene from the popular sitcom, Scandal. And for singing, she performed a French song that the judges admired.

Having performed and won ‘Best actress’ in the 2017 Kenya French Theatre Festival, Shirleen earned a scholarship to study at Alliance Francaise. She is also a member of Millez Theatre Productions.

All three winners are also assured a full year’s scholarship studying at NPAS. They also will be performing in both of the Studio’s 2021 productions, of Ngugi’s play and Sister Act.