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MeTambo News – October 2013
International Theatre Institute Zimbabwe
October 16, 2013

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Interview with Tariro Mushonga

MeTambo News recently caught up with upcoming lighting designer Tariro Mushonga to speak about his experiences as a technical person in the Zimbabwean Arts Industry and the challenges he has faced as well as the solutions to the problems the industry faces.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a creative arts addict who specialises in lighting design and set design. I am an all round techie who is passionate about wielding screw drivers and scaling heights.

How did you get started?

I approached Reps Theatre after I saw their advert in the press and also on their website calling for volunteers. They welcomed my passion with two hands and it is there that I received my training as a technical person.

What drew you to technical work in the arts industry?

I love live events. I am a concert head and an enthusiastic theatregoer. I have however, always been intrigued by the men and women in black sitting in the dark, pressing buttons and making all the magic on stage happen.

At a certain time at college where I was studying Religions and Peace studies, I knew that being a techie is what I wanted to do.

What is the state of the technical in Zimbabwean arts?

The fact that you have never seen fireworks in a show outside HIFA fire machines and daylight projections are barely known. Flying people on and off the stage is only occasionally done by Reps Theatre. We are still far way behind. People are reluctant to use props and set design somehow still means wedding-like décor. Despite productions like Idols SA being popular here, people are afraid to try out things they see on TV.

What are some of the challenges faced by techies in Zimbabwean arts?

Remuneration is often very little. Recently, I was offered $200 for a six-day festival with over 15 working hours a day. I turned it down. And because meaningful techie jobs rarely come by many people jump at the offer of such paltry amounts.

Also when arts support organisations when it comes to doing training programs for behind the scenes people they only do so for directors, writers, producers and arts administrators. Technical people also work behind the scenes and are very important support personnel to a production. No matter how good a performer is, if the lights and sound are poor or the scenic changes do not happen on cue the production will suffer.

What should be done?

More money should be put into productions. Most productions do not have a budget for lights and set. In the West End a small theatre production will have a tech budget of no less than a hundred thousand dollars. The new blood, the post MTV watching generation should be allowed to experiment and make mistakes. My favourite designer, Bob Dickinson, lighting designer to many awards shows in the United States of America and some Olympic ceremonies was at 30 given the opportunity to light the Oscars as an experiment at . He has single handedly defined how awards show are supposed to be lit in the 21st century.

Schools should also be put in place to standardise the practice. Technical Companies like Stage-Con and AVPro should offer more formal learner ships to technical enthusiasts. A strong collaboration culture between techies should also develop so people can work together and find ways to enhance the production together

How can people get involved in the arts as technical support personnel?

Just be tech savvy, be creative and willing to work long hours. Approach production houses or technical support companies that are reputable and well stocked and ask them to train you. They will train you with no remuneration. Right now I recommend Reps Theatre, Stage-Con, AVPro and Davies Events. They have fairly modern and standardized professional equipment and work environments.

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