Tebere Arts Foundation will, through the month of October, be showing the Tropical Fish play. Tropical Fish is an adaptation from award winning writer Doreen Baingana’s 2002 title story Tropical Fish. I am going to be running a series talking to different people taking part. In this episode I talk to Lulu Jemimah.
They say when you hang around the barbershop for long, soon you get a free haircut. The same is true for Lulu and theatre. She’s been around the theatre space for so long that at last she is getting on stage. “I have always wanted to try out acting but was too scared to try. I remember I once wrote it on my vision board.”
When Asiimwe Deborah Kawe called her to be part of the Tropical Fish play, it was a dream come true. Some years back Deborah had a reading for her play Appointment with gOD where Lulu showed up for the reading. To her that was good enough. Taking part in the reading was a cover up for a dream come true. “I executed the reading the best way I could. I was so excited.”
What she didn’t know is that she had just had her audition. When the opportunity came up for Tropical Fish, Deborah called her to take part.
“When I saw the script, I said yes. I had read the Tropical Fish short story collection before. When I read the script, it was familiar. The adaptation is so good. Every line has its significant meaning. When I was reading it alone, it was such a nice story but when I sat down with the team who were doing the deeper reading, I found it to be multi-layered and very scary. Working with the professionals has really opened up my eyes to the detail of interpretation.
Am in the hands of so many talented people. I have been co-cast with Esteri Tebandeke. Esteri alone has been in so many movies and on so many stages. Taking up a role with her is something I don’t take for granted. The entire team is bringing so much from their background.”
Lulu is acting as Christine, a 22 year old who tells of her relationship with a mzungu man when she was at campus. On this journey, Christine is learning a lot of things about herself as she narrates her story to the bar man who is also the audience.
Her excitement to be part of the project got her accepting the role before even reading it. “The character is very relatable. When you see a black girl with a mzungu, it is very easy to come to conclusions without bothering to find out why,” she tells me.
“This team makes me feel like I am good at what I am doing. After this, I want to take up more acting roles. Sometimes I go home and I am so heavy and sad because I feel like I have let the team down. On other days I am so determined studying line by line of the play in the wee hours of the night.
Before, the only role I took on in theatre was a producer of The Butterfly Girl in Melbourne. I like to try out things. One of the members on the team is doing a short film and I have already jumped on board.
Lulu has always been drawn to theatre attending shows and even once dated an actor but she only remained on the periphery of theatre. She never thought she could do it.
“I needed some vulnerability. You cannot bring ego to theatre.” She confesses as she calmly abandons her chair to sit down on the green grass. “Theatre has taught me a lot. We are so guarded as a generation. We filter our photos. We edit whatever we publish. We are so used to our checks. Theatre challenges you to do things as they are. We come from a cramming culture. Theatre encourages you to try and try and try. But having to ask the why in the things we do is very important. The directors have helped me graduate from Lulu to Christine.”
Tebere Arts Foundation works with emerging artistes by giving the opportunity to try out their hand and skill on theatre. Lulu encourages people to step out of their comfort to try out new things. what I should tell artistes who have not yet stepped out, she says step out. “When you see a call, just apply. As human beings, we condition ourselves too much. You only make a difference when you step out.”