© Lieven Symaeys

Behind the scenes of Afropean // Human Being

With only a few weeks to go until the first try-outs of Afropean // Human Being on 14 and 15 June, rehearsals for internationally renowned slam poet and hip hop artist Sukina Douglas’ first play are well underway. She and Kristin Rogghe, KVS city dramaturge and director of the play, picked actors via an open call. Julia Ghysels, Elien Hanselaer and Edson Anibal D.M. will portray the three main characters.


Story brought to life

The Afropean // Human Being casting call returned more than ninety applications. Twenty-five candidates were invited, and after three intense days of casting, the trio Julia, Elien and Edson were picked. We asked author Sukina Douglas (SD) and director Kristin Rogghe (KR) how they experienced the casting process.



    (Julia Ghysels) 


Were you expecting the casting to be so popular?
Sukina hesitantly shakes her head, while Kristin nods vigorously.


KR: “Sukina might not realise it, but she isn’t just a household name across the Channel. Plenty of actors here would love to work with her too. And we didn’t only receive applications from Belgium: also from Canada, London, Paris and Rotterdam. And both from trained actors and youngsters who had never acted before, from the most diverse of backgrounds: slam, rap, music, …”

SD: “The talent we witnessed was amazing. I saw various people with zero experience give brilliant performances. Their enthusiasm and motivation to be part of Afropean // Human Being was infectious. For me it’s a powerful confirmation that this theme is alive among young people. This play creates a different framework within which we can talk about heritage, oppression, activism: the frame of everyday life. The play mostly plays out in recognisable conversations between people, within friendships and family relations.”


“We ended up choosing three young actors with plenty of experience, simply because they represented the story in the most credible way. Credibility was the most important criterium for me during casting. I want to believe what someone says, I want to feel what is being said. Julia, Elien and Edson definitely did that for me. A gut feeling, perhaps. And they are very versatile actors, not just one trick ponies.”


For me it’s a powerful confirmation that this theme is alive among young people. This play creates a different framework within which we can talk about heritage, oppression, activism: the frame of everyday life.


KR: “The casting process was generally interesting because it allows you to get to know the characters in the text better and to deepen them, simply because the different candidates bring to life different aspects of the part.”


SD: “It also inspired me to develop the text further.”

   (Elien Hanselaer) 


What was the audition process like?

KR: “We made a first selection based on letters and videos. On day 1 and 2 we saw all the candidates for the first time. We talked about their motivations and worked through a dialogue with them, which they prepared in advance. On day 3 we invited a number of candidates back in and let them act in various combinations and do a few improv exercises. It was essential to see the chemistry between the three actors.”


“For this part of the casting we called on KVS face Pitcho Womba Konga, who helped us make the final decision. We are delighted by our choices. Our actors are all from different places and drama schools (Julia Ghysels from Antwerp, Elien Hanselaer from Ghent and Edson Anibal D.M. from Brussels), but the combination just works. Julia will take on the role of Saira. She hit the right notes immediately. Or as Pitcho put it: she seems to carry a secret, which makes her very intriguing. Elien is the ideal person to portray the bubbly Chloe. She has the spark in her eyes that we were looking for. And Edson basically embodied Micah right away. He even had the entire future of the character figured out.”


SD: “When I saw him, I immediately knew this was my Micah. He harbours a forceful urgency to tell this story.”



    (Edson Anibal D.M.) 


Julia, Elien, Edson and Sukina will be joined on stage by the dancing twin sisters Nathalie and Doris Bokongo Nkumu – familiar KVS faces by now. Brussels jazz talent Esinam Dogbatse creates the live soundtrack. Oscar Cassamajor, who previously provided the enchanting scenography and imagery for Moya Michael’s Coloured Swans 1 & 2, provides scenography and video. At every location where the play is shown, the cast is joined by different guest performers from the slam scene. In conclusion: Afropean // Human Being has developed into a lively mix of young artists, who are creating an fascinating work together.


Would you like to attend the try-out performances of Afropean // Human Being on 14 and 15 June? Book your tickets now.