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Troika’s Sarafina! to headline North Carolina festival

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Off to a North Carolina stage: Troika Bermuda is to perform Sarafina! at the International Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina, from July 29 to August 3, in Winston-Salem. The cast is pictured at the show’s premiere in Bermuda last year (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sold-out shows, standing ovations, extra performances … the accolades kept coming for Troika Bermuda’s production of Sarafina!

Among those who took note from afar were the organisers of the International Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

With the help of sponsors, Troika Bermuda’s cast and crew of 50 will be a headlining performer at the biennial event this summer.

Leading performance: Chinyere Nwasike as Sarafina (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The relationship between the two groups goes back to 2013 when Troika performed in the festival’s Youth Talent Showcase.

“Anytime we do a performance or one of our signature shows, we provide them with details about it and they watch what we do, whether that be via social media or any of the information that we send out,” said Seldon Woolridge, the founder of Troika Bermuda and the executive producer of Sarafina!

“So they asked us to submit to them some footage and any details from the performance that they could consider and the invite kind of went from there.”

Mr Woolridge added: “We have been invited as, I would say, one of the headliner international acts to perform on the main stage.”

Roughly 65,000 people attend the six-day festival which boasts more than 100 performances on multiple stages.

In addition to the shows there are “theatre workshops, films, seminars, poetry slams, a star-studded celebrity gala” and many other events.

Set in 1976 Soweto, Sarafina! is about a student revolt against the introduction of Afrikaans in Black schools. The musical was nominated for a Tony Award and later made into a Hollywood film.

“Most people look at Bermuda as being just a little island in the middle of the Atlantic, but we have so much talent,” said G’ané Everheart, production manager and stage manager for Sarafina!

Proof of that lies in the invite to the festival this coming July, she added.

“It just shows, don't give up on your dreams. The world is your stage. We all have so many gifts and we shouldn't limit them to just a tiny island. You never know where they’re going to take you.”

Amazed by the response: Sion Symonds playing the role of Colgate in Sarafina! (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sion Symonds, who plays Colgate in the South African musical, was amazed by just how “overwhelmingly positive” everyone was about the show.

“It was humbling, it was encouraging. Everyone that saw the show raved about it. I've heard that our reach is big and we’re significant and our performance, our voices, our faces, matter,” he said.

“It makes me feel like I'm achieving my dreams and it makes me feel like this is a big step in the right direction.

Guiding hand: Seldon Woolridge, the founder of Troika Bermuda and the executive producer of Sarafina! (File photograph)

“I'm sure there's tons of opportunities, tons of chances that are awaiting us out there. So on a personal basis, it's mind blowing, and worth celebrating and beyond that, it's humbling.”

Chinyere Nwasike plays Sarafina, a young South African who inspires her classmates to join the revolution.

She also found Bermuda’s response to the production “humbling” and considered it “an honour” to be able to represent the island and “the history of Sarafina! on an international stage”.

Troika will perform four shows at the Gerald Freedman Theatre at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

The group believes it may be a Bermuda first – a local production company invited to restage a professional work off island. As such, the company is already back at work honing a production that many already felt was “perfect”.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to reconnect, to re-engage the cast and get them back on their feet with the material,” Mr Woolridge said.

“The performers have had the opportunity to experience performing it locally. So we’re just strengthening from that in order to ensure that we present powerful performances for an international audience.”

The cast and crew are thankful that the community embraced the show as positively as they did.

“I think that was instrumental in providing us with the thrust to be able to take on an international opportunity. A Bermudian audience is a very hard audience to please; it’s definitely a great audience to do any initial work.”

The hope now is that people will remember the enjoyment they got from Sarafina! and help expose the “collaborative effort” of the cast and crew to an even bigger audience.

Collaborative effort: Troika Bermuda is to perform Sarafina! at the International Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina, from July 29 to August 3, in Winston-Salem. The cast is pictured at the show’s premiere in Bermuda last year (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

“This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the young performers; an opportunity to perform on an international stage,” Mr Woolridge said.

“The festival draws over 60,000 theatre goers and a renowned piece like Sarafina! that has so much history and legacy attached to it, for a cast that is not South African to be able to perform it for an international audience is a huge accomplishment

“I think it is such a great example as to how hard work and commitment can create a great outcome. The community collaborated – the cast members on stage, the creative team, the technical team, musicians and volunteers – to put together something that has a huge impact.

Mr Woolridge added: “We’re honoured to be featured as one of the two international acts that will be performing at this year's festival. It is a great accomplishment and we're excited about the opportunities that may come and the exposure that the performance will get.”

To support Troika Bermuda’s performance at the International Black Theatre Festival e-mail info@troikabda.com. For more information visit troikabda.com; ncblackrep.org/international-black-theatre-festival/

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Published April 19, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 20, 2024 at 8:22 am)

Troika’s Sarafina! to headline North Carolina festival

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