From delivering impeccable performances in the many diverse roles she has played on stages since she was a puppy in a Grade 4 play to being the Opera House’s artistic manager, Nelson Mandela Bay actor Nobesuthu Rayi is now firmly ensconced as associate producer at the National Arts Festival. By ZAMANDULO MALONDE
KwaMagxaki’s Rayi joined the National Arts Festival in May last year after taking a leap of faith after resigning from her job as the PE Opera House’s artistic manager – with no solid back-up plan.
Little did she know that, two months later, she would be spearheading – with colleagues – the country’s biggest arts festival’s production, alongside fairly new executive producer, Ashraf Johaardien, who took over the reins from Ismail Mahomed last year.
“When I resigned from the Opera House I had no solid plan but I knew that I was an artist, so something would definitely come up. All I knew was that I needed to grow and not feel stuck in one place any more,” she said.
While the actor did not immediately receive a job offer, she was thrilled and excited to honour Johaardien’s call. “In May [last year] I received a call from Ashraf Johaardien who said he needed a, sort of, footprint of the Eastern Cape in the main programme, although he was not clear in which way, he asked me if I could step in and assist,” Rayi said.
Getting into the Opera House had itself taken some buckling down from Rayi’s side as she spent all her life perfecting her craft. Since before her school days at Sivuyiseni Primary, she had been more than just interested in the performing arts, if the tantrum that led to her graduating pre-school a year earlier is anything to go by.
“I remember that year’s grad class doing a rehearsal for a play they would perform on their graduation day and I asked why I wasn’t included in the rehearsal. I cried my lungs out and threw a fit when I was told it was only for those who were graduating … and I wasn’t one of them. “They had no choice but to let me graduate,” she chuckled.
Her talents came to the fore in Grade 2, when Rayi was promoted halfway through her Grade 2 class to the next grade. After matriculating from Magxaki High School at 16, she enrolled at Stageworld Theatre College to study the performing arts.
“One of the things I found very difficult in college was being surrounded by peers who were from affluent high schools, who had taken drama as more than just an extra-mural activity, and actually had scripts, which was something we never had at my school,” she said.
Her curiosity and passion propelled Rayi to learn all she could muster at the college and give back to her community. She started a performing arts group and taught her pupils about socials ills – and life in general – through the arts.
The actor practically grew up on stage, having played roles in many Bay productions, including Three Billy Goats Gruff, Curl Up and Dye, After Marikana, Time’s Up, Cinderella – and various others.
She played most of the roles when she joined the PE Opera House in 2013 as one of six performers called to open the Performing Arts Company of the Eastern Cape (PACEC) on the Opera House’s monthly payroll. “We were tasked with many things, from writing our own one-man shows, being commissioned for puppet shows, teaching in schools – and more,” she said.
Rayi joins the National Arts Festival’s production team after her fair share of visits to the annual festival as a creator and actor in productions – including Changes, in which she stars with Xabiso Zweni along with a German cast and crew.
Rayi and Zweni have been invited by the Landesbuhne Niedersachsen Nord to tour Germany with Changes from May 25 to June 18 before Rayi returns for the National Arts Festival from June 28 to July 8.
Photo: Mark West for The Herald
- This article was originally published in The Herald. Republished here with kind permission