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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


By Themi Venturas

Seldom had I met a more driven, dynamic and dedicated individual as Celeste Litkie. We met as fellow students at the University of Natal, Department of Speech and Drama. Along with Brenda Radloff (now Devar-Sakelarides), Mark Faith, Melanie Bowles (now Kettner) and myself, we studied and played together all the way through the early 80’s graduating in 1984 with Honours degrees in Drama. For the next few years, we all formed the innovative Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre Company during which time we honed our skills and became theatre professionals. Celeste gave a memorable performance of Sissy in Fugard’s People Are Living There. She was often the actress who was celebrated as the comedienne in our group often compared to Carol Burnett, who was popular at the time on TV.

When the EST company was dissolved, most of us carried on in our own way. Mark Faith went overseas, Melanie got married to an evangelist and also went overseas, Brenda started her freelance career, I joined NAPAC and Celeste - who had married her varsity boyfriend Paul Zaloumis - settled down to becoming a mother of daughter Stephanie, and a freelance performing artist. During this time she appeared in many NAPAC productions, moved to Cape Town to accompany her husband who was doing post graduate studies. She continued to appear in shows on a freelance basis, and did her Masters Degree and then her Doctorate at UDW with Dr Dennis Schauffer in which she recorded the contribution of SA Indians to the SA Theatre Industry. She moved to Johannesburg briefly, again because of her husband’s work commitments. While in Johannesburg she expanded her network and worked as a freelance performer both on stage and on television.

The family then emigrated to Australia for a while - again as a result of Paul’s work commitments. While in Australia, Celeste honed her writing skills and made work for herself worldwide on the internet. During this time she began doing writing work for VWV in the corporate sector. By now her second child, Thomas, was born. On returning to SA and because of her connection to VWV she joined them and specialized in Corporate Theatre work. Celeste worked her way to the very top of the Corporate Theatre world, becoming the Artistic Director of VWV and later of the O’Mage group and handling some of the biggest launches in the country including the five-centre launch of the Mercedes Benz ‘C’ class factory in East London.

The Corporate Theatre lifestyle took its toll on her marriage and Celeste and Paul were divorced, and soon thereafter her health took a turn for the worse as a result of ‘burn-out’. She never quite recovered completely. She married Andreas and together they formed another Corporate Theatre Company called Brown Paper Bag which continued to operate successfully. I last worked with them at the Durban ICC when, along with Combined Artists (Carte Blanche etc), Celeste directed the official 2010 FIFA draw in December of 2008. After that, apart from the Johannesburg work that she and her husband continued to do, her health took a turn for the worse. She was diagnosed with cancer and Bi-Polar disorder and could not recover. Finally, as a result of many complications she suffered organ failure and passed away.

Your passing has shocked many of us, Celeste, and reminded us all of our own mortality, and how ‘life’ has a way of driving us away from our old and close friends. We wish your family and friends all the best. – Themi Venturas

(It is understood that a Memorial Mass will be held in Durban shortly. Details to follow)