Thursday, October 29, 2020

Bye Bye Birdie’s Tebbie and Tumie

A teenager who is president of a fan club is involved in a whirlwind of celebrity spin doctoring in this year’s theatre production by Stuart White. Bye Bye Birdie, a fictional story parallel with Elvis Presley’s period of being drafted into US army for Vietnam, is centred on how his manager handled the event.

A fan is picked randomly from the nationwide fan club by manager, Albert (Martin Norman), to be serenaded by the star, Conrad Birdie (Brando Keabilwe), and given the much-publicized ‘one last kiss’.

The Sunday Standard had the opportunity to meet the two young actresses sharing the role of the ‘lucky’ 15-year-old, Kim MacAfee, from Sweet Apple, Ohio, who is the president of the Conrad Birdie fan club to discuss their shared role. We met at Mantlwaneng auditorium where Stuart White’s productions are hosted annually.

One morning, Tebogo, ‘Tebbie’ Gaetsewe’s mother, woke her up to listen to the audition call on Gabz FM. “And here I am,” beamed the 17-year-old.
“Kim is 15-years-old, has just got a steady boyfriend and thinks she is a woman now and so she is on the verge of leaving the fan club.” Tebbie said.

How are rehearsals handled with two characters sharing a role, “I will sit nearby, and make a mental note to advice and to direct Boitumelo ‘Tumie’ Mphusu while onstage. We then go over the same part with me playing Kim.”

“My favourite characters in the play are Ursula, Kim’s best friend, and Birdie,” she said.

Said Tebbie, who matriculated from St. Patrick’s College in Kimberly, South Africa, last year; “Bye Bye Birdie is my first ‘non school show.’”

“In Grade 9 I was in a school variety show called Celebrations where I danced; and in my final year, I played Snowhite, in Snowhite and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Tebbie tells The Sunday Standard that though she especially likes singing, she is certain that she wants a Drama career. “Next year I am hoping to get into Tshwane University of Technology to study Drama, I have actually applied and waiting for a response.”

Her deciding factor came during a school trip to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

“We attended the special programme dedicated to Matric students, and got to watch a variety of plays. The very first play we watched, picked out audience members, dressed them up and used them as characters in the play.”

Boitumelo ‘Tumi’ Mphusu is a Legae Academy student, and currently in Form 4. This 15-year-old has worked with Stuart White last year in Annie where she was cast in a minor role. Her start in performance art was through dance, “I did ballet then hip hop dancing,” she says.

“Mrs Withers, my drama teacher, told me about the new production and encouraged me to audition,” and audition she did, though she was nervous, she forgot the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. “The pianist helped me relax and I managed,” she says.
“We work with the acting coach. She comes every evening, and at home I practice in front of the mirror,” Says Tumi.

“Kim MacAfee is a sweet girl, who thinks she is a woman because she got ‘pinned,’ I struggle initially because I have never been pinned,” Tumi says with a nervous laugh. “But I pictured it as a teenage phase where one ‘thinks’ they are grown up.”
How does she know if she is portraying the real Kim?

“Sometimes I don’t know if I am, but when on stage I can feel her come out,” she says.

Tumi particularly likes dancing, and after Secondary school she plans to learn different types of dance, “to see how my body operates, but really I want to be a cardiologist,” she said.

On what piqued her interest in drama, she recalls Mrs Withers making her see a theatre production called Rain at Maitisong.

“It touched me, and I had the chance to talk to one of the actresses. I have also watched the movie Grease and thought that could be me.”

Bye Bye Birdie tickets will be available from June 1 at Maitisong, Riverwalk and Game City at P75 for adults and P50 for children.

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