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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


(Pic: The cast of “Curtain Up”, the first Young Performers’ Project show)

Sifiso Sikhakane takes a look at this project which develops young talent.

Last year, Durban thought that the Young Performers’ Project was taking its last bow with its performance of School of Rock SA. This project which has been running for the last eight years had to face the loss of their major sponsor, Unilever, but due to its major contribution in developing young talent, Rainbow Chicken has been more than willing to take over from where Unilever left off.

In 2001, the project’s founder, Linda Van Der Veen, had a dream to help talented youth get a taste of the entertainment world, and help them decide if this was a possible career choice for them. “I spoke to Miles Dally who was the CEO of Robertsons at that time about having a charity show and he was more than delighted to come on board,” said Linda. With the funding she had received, Linda was then able to team up with Durban’s much-acclaimed professionals in the arts industry such as Themi Venturas, Charon Williams Ros, Dawn Selby and Peter Court.

Over 300 young people showed up to the first auditions, with talent waiting to be unleashed. Curtain Up, which was the first show, laid the foundation of this successful project which has managed to produce a number of professional performers around South Africa and internationally. To name a few, Adhir Kylan, who was in Oliver and is now based in London, took a leading role in the British comedy series Aliens in America. In 2005, Pume Zondi, the Durban Diva became a Top 10 finalist in the television series, Pop Idols.

“The young performers’ project has served as a springboard to other reputable shows,” said Krystle Temmerman who played Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof and is currently recording her debut album.

After producing mind blowing shows such as One Voice, Grease, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wiz, Annie and last year’s School of Rock SA, the project still manages to grow in talent and publicity. This year’s production will be the hit musical, Big River, which will be staged at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from the July 3 to 19.

The project combines youngsters from different classes and social backgrounds and helps them achieve a common goal. Production manager and director Themi Venturas ensures that the less fortunate youngsters are also catered for within the project by ensuring that they receive as much help as possible, such as transport assistance.

The Young Performers’ Project has helped shape the future of these high school learners, thus reducing the rate of talented youth who run away from the arts industry and its perceived bleak future. “These young people are the future,” added Charon Williams Ros, “When audiences watch these young people exploding onto the stage, they are reminded how important the arts are and how we must safeguard its future.”

With the assistance received from Rainbow Chicken, the Rainbow Young Performers production team promises to bring onto the stage another superb show this July, with the young performers who are determined to keep the dream alive. - Sifiso Sikhakhane