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Friday, September 21, 2018


(Themi Venturas)

Story by Billy Suter (courtesy of sosuterbill)

The 100 or so stones and pebbles, many of them with messages, that mourners placed into buckets at Durban’s Playhouse last September, during the memorial service there for local theatre stalwart Themi Venturas, are to be displayed in a commemorative frame at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The pebbles, which have been in safe-keeping to allow for a period of mourning, are likely to be displayed by November in a wooden frame alongside a bronze plaque, mounted on a wall in the Sneddon’s Greenroom Courtyard, in honour of Themi’s contribution to theatre in general and that theatre in particular.

The Greenroom Courtyard, a patch of green backstage for performers to relax during breaks, is not open to the public, so the stones and pebbles will be seen only by those who work and perform at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The Greenroom is located along the same passage as the dressing rooms in the basement of the theatre. It is essentially a relaxation area for performers, with a small kitchen. It has a back door which leads out into an enclosed courtyard looking onto the surrounding indigenous forest; essentially at the centre-back of the theatre. The Greenroom Courtyard entrance is often used as a backstage entrance for performers, instead of walking through the foyer (especially large groups).

Themi died, aged 59, of pancreatic cancer on September 11, 2017, six months or so after initial diagnosis of the disease. He is survived by his wife Trish and sons Matthew and Alexander, both twentysomethings.

Those attending the memorial service at the Playhouse Opera theatre on September 26 last year were encouraged to take along a stone or pebble.

“The idea of communally creating a stone structure or cairn resonates across cultures, beliefs, faiths and folklore. The organisers invite all guests and participants to bring along a single stone or pebble which will be fashioned into a stone memorial to honour Themi at a place of personal significance to him. Guests are welcome to write a message or tribute onto the stone should they wish,” the invitation read.

An important, groundbreaking and widely respected member of the South African arts community for some three decades, Themi was an award-winning director, writer, performer, musician, producer and theatre manager of multiple venues and theatre companies.

Themi directed, and in many cases produced, more than 500 productions ranging from revues to musical theatre, comedy, Shakespeare, opera; new South African works and ceremonies/corporate events.

Virtually the entire downstairs auditorium of the large Playhouse Opera theatre was filled with relatives, friends, colleagues and fans of the popular, versatile and award-winning performer.

The most poignant part of the evening came with addresses by Themi’s sons, the younger of whom, Alexander, broke down as he spoke lovingly of his father, a man who was extremely proud of his two boys. – Billy Suter

For Billy Suter’s full coverage of the memorial service last year click here: