Her name is Aganza. Aganza Kisaka. She is a professional dancer, actress and all things theatre and film. For the few years she has been on the scene, she has had to grace the stage and the screen under different titles and roles. Being able to do something she has been so passionate about since her childhood is a dream come true for her. However, her professional career had to begin somewhere.
Like any other course of life, the time was drawing nigh for the completion of her undergraduate. The common talk among all her classmates was applying for a master’s degree with a prestigious university somewhere which was not a bad idea. In fact, she also went ahead to apply. However, she had to answer certain questions before she could be admitted. “Why this program?” “What problem do you want to solve?” “How do you want to solve it?” and the et cetera of that kind. She had no answers.
It was then that it occurred to her to pack her bags and head back home to Uganda. Upon her return, she expected to be welcomed by open arms of the arts industry since she was coming on board as a qualified actress and dancer. She was wrong. There was work for her to do first before she could get that attention. Aganza’s first shock was her first salary of UGX 70,000 a month for an acting role. She had never thought of earning so little as such an amount in 2015.
Someone once told her the reason she wasn’t getting paid is because she was seen as a young actress without responsibilities. You had to be seen having responsibilities to attract a better pay or so the adviser thought.
“Much as I didn’t like the pay, every time there was an acting or dancing role, I showed up.”
Once she got to know more people in the industry and learnt how to dot the I’s and cross the t’s, it was time to explore some more. This has led her to doing drama series, film and more so, the one she is so passionate about, theatre.
When Aganza is telling you about theatre, you have to stop whatever you are doing to listen. As a student at the university of New York, Anganza was very convinced she wanted to do theatre. To her, the idea of being able to be an actress and dancer at a professional level is all that excited her.
She intentionally went on rampage making the calls and reaching out to whichever door could open but only in the theatre space.
A teaching opportunity at one of the international schools in Kampala opened up for her and she was in for another shock of her life. She had been hired as a teacher of drama and she was very excited. The only challenge was that her docket stood outside the “official” school program. Her program schedule always came in later. Being an international school, there were parents that supported their children to pursue drama while others confronted to allow their children “concentrate on the studies”. On one hand you had a child that was interested in drama while the parent wasn’t. On another hand you had parents pushing for their child to be part of drama but the child was reluctant. By and large they got along. However, the idea of always having to explain to the parents was not working out. Also the job was so engaging she missed out on being on stage. She put down the gloves and went back.
Two other doors opened to be part of the 10th Berlin Biennale and the 27 Guns Film which she grabbed by the horns. “I learnt from my mother that every time you have to choose on two assignments, do both.” She had wanted opportunities and here they were. She went on to pursue both.
Ms Kisaka’s heart beats for theatre. She wants to make theatre popular among young people. That it is okay for one to pursue theatre and excel at it. She also wants to improve the work environment in the theatre space. That you don’t have to do things the way others do them and still get very good results. “I want young adults to have here what I had abroad not because they lack the resources but they’re taking their talents abroad. I want to create an environment for the arts to be originally created from here and it is super excellent.”
In terms of theatre management, there are also a number of gaps that should be addressed. The good thing is a number of players are coming up and taking up the task. And as that is going on, it should also be brought to notice that the Ugandan audience needs to up its game.
“Looking back to the time when I’d just returned, I’d say it’s worth it. I’m able to answer the questions I was asked at the master’s entry level. I now have all the answers off my fingertips.” There are so many challenges with having more Ugandans attend shows. People want to be contacted in person and be reminded and given a cut on the ticket price. At the end of the day, theatre practitioners to need to make money as well.
Today, more opportunities are knocking on her door. She’s been asked to consider teaching theatre at universities something she is yet to consider doing with time. For now, she is working on some personal projects as she considers doing that master’s program as well.