The Fringe Manager of the National Arts Festival, Zikhona Monaheng – known by everyone as Zee – is our one in a zillion and a cherished treasure in the Festival Office. Always calm, always smiling, always ‘making a plan’ – Zee is the go-to person for all Fringe artists. Completely unfazed by the weird and wonderful tribe that make up the Fringe, Zee manages to make her job seem like a breezy cruise – but it’s definitely not: scheduling upwards of 1 800 performances into 40 venues in 11 days is a mammoth 3D jigsaw puzzle; advising the newbies, becalming the qualms of the drama queens, remembering everybody’s names, cajoling info out of the reticent, talking tech with the techies, keeping track of all the admin and finance… and managing to keep relatively sane all at the same time is something that only a very special few can do.
This month, Zee’s trusty sidekick Sisanda Mankayi will be taking over the reins as – happy days – five-year-old Kadi Monaheng has a brand-new little brother, Moshe! Congrats to Zee and Karabo – and welcome to the Festival family, Baby Moshe.
Before she went on maternity leave, Zee gave us a few insights into her job:
Zee’s Fringe in Five
- Five words that describe your job: Meticulous, stressful, rewarding, long hours, fun.
- Weirdest request ever from a Fringe artist: Over the years, there have been lots – a venue for the audience to eat off an actor’s body, an installation venue for six hours of washing underwear, scheduling nine productions that couldn’t clash because the same actor was in all of them… the list goes on.
- Best and worst moments as Fringe Manager: The best – finally meeting the artists I’ve been chatting to on the phone and seeing productions get good audiences. The worst – sorting out clashes in the schedule.
- Hardest part of the job: The scheduling – I try and send out the schedules on a Friday so that I can have a weekend breather before attending to all the complaints, clashes and changes!
- Typical in-fest hours: 07:30 to past midnight.
- 8% of Fringe artists realise that they have a wedding/memorial/21st or 70th birthday party or sometimes even a funeral that they must attend on the exact date they have been scheduled to perform…
- 20% of Fringe companies only realise that they have put the wrong performance dates on their application after their performances have been scheduled
- 60% of Fringe artists are super excited to have a venue and performance platform, 30% are mega excited, but 10% are gobsmackingly chuffed and these are the guys the Fringe office LOVE.
- 99% of the Fringe artists are great. The other 1% are loud, obnoxious, overbearing and arrogant – and usually only participate once.
Fringe artists pay their own way in Grahamstown. Sure, they get 82% of their Box Office earnings but that means they must sell loads of tickets to cover the accommodation, travel, and marketing expenses. Lots of these guys are in Grahamstown for the platform – to showcase their work: many are relatively unknown; many more are completely unknown. But they believe in their work. Please support them. The Fringe can be a kick start for a great career – look at Rob van Vuuren, Tara Notcutt, Mamela Nyamza. These guys were unknowns on the Fringe, now they are multi award winning South African artists. Let’s give the 2018 Fringe artists a boost up the ladder by taking a chance on them.