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BWW Interview: Five on Friday with Sarafina Magazine's Candice Bernstein

BWW Interview: Five on Friday with Sarafina Magazine's Candice Bernstein
Candice Bernstein
Photo credit: Amanda Baker

Since establishing Sarafina Magazine in 2016, South African blogger and actress Candice Bernstein has featured over 150 womxn, drawing readers from over 90 countries. A Capetonian by birth, she moved to New York City to study at William H Macy and David Mamet's The Atlantic Acting School. Bernstein returned to South Africa in 2015 with the hope of contributing to the local arts industry in a meaningful way and struck gold with her idea of taking a peek into the lives and careers of both established and upcoming womxn in our local arts industries.

After a year of bringing womxn's stories via the web-based platform that Sarafina Magazine calls home, Bernstein has raised the bar on her own astoundingly successful initiative by introducing Live discussion panels to the Sarafina brand. Inspired by The Hollywood Reporter's Roundtables, the first of these took place in January with her March showcase set to feature three of the most beloved doyennes of the South African theatre industry: Denise Newman, Sandra Prinsloo and Jennifer Steyn.

Candice took some time out from preparing the questions she will be asking these three veteran performers about their careers, the trails they have blazed and their contributions to the South African performing arts industry to take part in this week's edition of "Five on Friday" for BroadwayWorld South Africa.

David Fick: Sarafina Magazine has achieved the incredible feat of showcasing and recording for posterity the heritage of South African womxn in the arts. What made you decide to grow the work that you do by adding a live element to your cornucopia of testimonial and photographic material?

Candice Bernstein: The live element has always been something that I've wanted to introduce. After Sarafina Magazine celebrated its first birthday, the time seemed right to finally start implementing this new element. The objective of the Live event is to continue to bridge the gap between audience - or readers - and artists. There is a certain electricity that takes place during Sarafina interviews that I don't think always comes across on "paper" and my hope is that the live aspect is able to convey that with the audience through their own engagement with these womxn.

DF: What made the Alexander Bar's Upstairs Theatre the perfect spot for Sarafina Magazine to go live?

CB: I absolutely adore the Alexander Bar and the work that it showcases. I thought it was a perfect spot for the first two panels because it has truly become a home away from home for the theatre industry. Jon Keevy has been wonderful in accommodating Sarafina Magazine: Live and making the space a welcoming one. It is very important to me, however, that Sarafina Magazine remains an accessible platform and because of that, future panels might take place in different venues to accommodate the needs of others.

BWW Interview: Five on Friday with Sarafina Magazine's Candice Bernstein
Denise Newman, Sandra Prinsloo and Jennifer Steyn
Photo credit: Sophie Kirsch and Chris de Beer

DF: On a personal level, what makes it exciting for you to celebrate South African womxn in the way that Sarafina Magazine does?

CB: Getting to sit down with these extraordinary womxn and hear their stories has been the privilege of a lifetime, and without sounding too sappy, it has expanded my heart in a way that I never knew was possible. It's exciting because womxn are finally being asked compelling questions and these conversations often leave me feeling very inspired. I've also loved every minute of collaborating with the talented photographers that have featured on the platform.

DF: What do you think the biggest challenge facing South African theatre is at present?

CB: I can only speak about my perceptions on Cape Town theatre but I think the answer is a very complicated one. Funding is always mentioned as an issue in almost every interview. I think this issue puts limitations on the risks that can be taken and the artistic boundaries that can be pushed. There is extraordinary work that is currently being done with very little funding and I can't help but wonder what would happen if these visionary theatre-makers, institutions and performers were given more resources. But I think the biggest challenge facing theatre at the moment is that it has becoming increasingly difficult for new voices to break through. Young people have been fighting to be heard by creating their own work and showcasing it at smaller venues and festivals but how do we ensure that people come and witness this work? It is time for risk taking. I think it's disheartening to see that nontraditional casting isn't a thing in South Africa yet. It's disheartening to not see new performers onstage in the bigger venues. I think Tara Notcutt has recently done an incredible job breaking down these walls by self-producing her production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and by casting an ensemble of actors, most of whom had never featured at Maynardville before. New voices excite me.

DF: In South Africa at this time, we have a huge mix of theatre legends and inspiring new artists. Who is your South African theatre hero?

CB: I am inspired by so many people but there is definitely one person who I would consider my theatre hero. In an effort to remain neutral and to respect their privacy, I'll try and keep this somewhat vague. There has been an artist that I have admired for a while. Watching this person perform on stage has caused me to reexamine my own artistic career. This is a performer who always pours her entire being into every performance that she gives. Her work inspires me to be a little bit braver in everything that I do. I had the opportunity to interview her and was completely blown away by the soul behind the artist. In recent months, she has become a mentor of mine and I continue to be inspired not only by the work that she does but that she has been able to carve out a diverse career while retaining her integrity, and despite the success that she has rightfully earned, she is a grounded, gracious, wonderful human being.

SARAFINA MAGAZINE: LIVE! will take place at the Alexander Upstairs on 12 March at 18:00. Tickets cost R90 - R100 and are available from the Alexander Bar website, For telephone enquiries, call 021 300 1652. All funds raised from ticket sales will go towards ensuring the longevity and expansion of this vital womxn narrative-driven platform. The Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre is situated at 76 Strand Street in the Cape Town city centre and can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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