From Page to Stage: Kwezi Kaganda’s Passion for Playwriting and Acting

Transforming a simple story, personal experience, or event into a captivating TV drama or theatre production requires a special skillset. Acclaimed actor, writer, director, and teacher Kwezi Kaganda Ruhinda joins Flavia Tumusiime on MultiChoice’s Home of Our Stars to divulge the creative process behind crafting unforgettable characters and bringing them to life on stage and on screen.

In 1989, the arts industry was still in its infancy, and passion, not profit, drove its pioneers. Kwezi Kaganda Ruhinda was among the first to join the Ebonies and Drama Wing, where he honed his craft in both acting and musicals, laying the foundation for his future in the performing arts.

However, the harsh realities of the industry soon set in. “I left the Ebonies in 1992 due to the challenges of making a living as an actor,” Kwezi recalls. “Fame didn’t translate to financial stability, so I switched to teaching rather than struggle.”

This decision led him to Namasagali College, where he had once been a student. “The unconventional teaching methods, based on talent rather than traditional curriculum, fascinated me,” he reminisces. “When my acting career stalled, I returned to Namasagali as a teacher, thanks to an invitation from a former university lecturer to direct and produce plays for their annual production. This eventually blossomed into a permanent role.”

Kwezi’s passion for acting never faded, and he eventually found his way back to the stage. “Even as a teacher, I couldn’t resist the allure of performing,” he recalls. “During school productions, I would join the students on stage.”

Kwezi sheds light on the distinct differences between acting on TV and theatre. “The stage demands specialized training, whereas on-screen acting requires a natural, subtle approach to accommodate the camera’s intimate close-ups,” he explains.

“In theatre, you need to exaggerate gestures and expressions, but timing is crucial. Personally, I thrive on the thrill of live theatre, where audience feedback is instantaneous and electrifying. In contrast, acting for cameras can feel isolating, as you don’t receive immediate feedback on your performance,” he enlightens.

Kwezi shares his insights on identifying actor talent: “Talent is self-evident; you can spot a gifted actor from the start. Uganda boasts an abundance of talent, but opportunity is scarce.” However, he notes that discipline and training are also essential, and often lacking.

“That’s why many of my generation succeeded – we acted driven by passion, not profit. Majority of today’s young stars prioritize financial gain over artistic dedication. They wouldn’t have made the cut if they had debuted in our era.”

Kwezi has found a new creative home with Fun Factory, a comedy group that shares his passion for laughter. “Our common ground is comedy, and that’s what brought me to Fun Factory,’ he notes.

While it’s rare to see talented individuals come together and succeed, Kwezi attributes Fun Factory’s harmony to their strong bond. “We’re a family, and that’s what keeps us united. We’re transparent and open with each other, which helps us work through our differences and stay together.”

As a mentor, Kwezi has nurtured many actors, some of whom he now shares the stage with at Fun Factory. He beams with pride when speaking about their accomplishments. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to see my former students thrive, especially when they’re excelling alongside me. It brings me immense joy and satisfaction to see them grow and flourish in the same environment.”

The film industry has undergone a significant transformation since the 80s, and Kwezi is actively contributing to the African narrative by penning the screenplay for Pearl Magic Prime’s Sanyu. Kwezi shares his thought process behind crafting this type of drama, emphasizing the importance of delivering a compelling story to the audience.

“You owe your audience a worthy story.” Kwezi focuses on telling authentic, relatable Ugandan stories drawn from real-life experiences, aiming to create content that resonates with audiences.

He shares his approach to writing a vast show like Sanyu. “Experience helps you craft better stories. We develop character bibles, plot their journeys, and outline their achievements and challenges. This ensures consistency and helps build characters that fit the show.”

Despite feeling unfulfilled due to limited opportunities in his early days, Kwezi would still choose the arts industry again. He believes, “many talented people lack passion, doing things only for money. However, with platforms like the MultiChoice Talent Factory, there is an opportunity for young talent to develop their skills and passion.”

“Active talent on the other hand has a home on MultiChoice’s Pearl Magic and Pearl Magic Prime,” he concludes.

Don’t miss the sunset episodes of Sanyu, a captivating tale expertly woven by Kwezi, on Pearl Magic Prime (DStv 148 and GOtv 303). In an exciting move, the show is now accessible to a wider audience, starting from DStv Access and GOtv Plus customers. Catch up on earlier seasons on Pearl Magic and be a part of the mesmerizing storytelling that has captivated viewers!

Kleive Calvin