A 27-year-old Malawian actor Abraham Anene Ntonya, who is currently based in Arizona, is making impressive inroads in the United States (US) literature with his current feature in popular stage production called To Kill a Mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a world record novel by Harper Lee, which was published in 1960. It was immediately successful and popular, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. It started being performed on October 30 by Zao Theatre at 3700 E. 16th Avenue, off Goldfield Road in Apache Junction.
In an exclusive interview via facebook with The Nation, the Zomba born actor said he was honoured to break through the American literature and represent Malawi especially in one of the classics To Kill a Mockingbird.
“It is a huge honour to act in To Kill a Mockingbird. I would not imagine a lot of Malawians were required to read the novel by Harper Lee during their days in high school, I know I was not, but here in the USA, it was a requirement for many and the story it tells is still relevant today,” said Ntonya.
The current play version of To Kill a Mockingbird is dramatised by Christopher Sergel, and Ntonya’s character is Tom Robinson, who plays a huge part in contributing to the moral of the story. It delves into racism and systemic racism that are still happening across the world.
“The issue of racism is ever present and has found more ways to disguise itself. Therefore, this play takes a critical look at this issue head on and does a great job placing the audience in the shoes of others to allow them to walk for a while,” said Ntonya.
Ntonya, who was living in Lilongwe before moving to South Africa and later to the US where he has stayed for over six years, is a gifted actor whose story is compounded to an in born talent.
He first appeared on stage at the tender age of three when he played one of the three kings that brought a gift to baby Jesus at school.
He recalled: “It was a steady ride from that day, and in 1998 I played the role of Fagin in the hit musical Oliver Twist at Bishop Mackenzie Primary School. Then I was 11-years-old and that was when I knew, I wanted to be an actor for the rest of my life.”
Ntonya then moved to South Africa to finish his IGCSE and A-Levels at the International School of South Africa (ISSA) where he was a student for five years. He was awarded three Drama Honours Awards for his achievements in acting. He also won Best Actor for inter-house play competition, and also bagged an awarded for Best Acting for his performance in This Time Tomorrow by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o at the Raps Theater Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In 2008 he moved to USA and in 2012 graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater from the Arizona State University and was awarded ‘Outstanding Contributions by a Senior Student Award and Director’s Special Recognition Award.’
This year, happens to be Ntonya’s seventeenth year of acting in theater and he has managed to appear in about forty plays.
Some of his milestone performances include Grandpa Joe in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Sir Edward Ramsey in The King and I, Cassiem in District Six, Yang Sun in The Good Person of Setzuan, Orpheus in Eurydice, Troilus in Troilus and Cressida, Constantine in Big Love, and George Shearer in Zoot Suit.
But his film acting career began six years ago when he was privileged to act in student film titled Beautiful Addiction by Nick Ramirez. That film won two awards and got him an interview with MTV3.
Since then, he has acted in about twenty student films and he is more proud of his work in Alfred by Evan Sorosky and Infected by Kyle Steeno. Whilst living in California, he also briefly appeared in a popular episode of the hit television show Bones that has been aired on DStv.
He has also appeared briefly in a feature film called Life of a King starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
“My journey has really been amazing and I am set to take Malawi to the highest level,” said Ntonya.