Through the lens: The unsung heroes of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

We easily forget the many people who work tirelessly under the radar to bring a production to life. Actress and photographer, Candice van Litsenborgh took her camera backstage at Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a production which boasts a majority female crew, to give us a glimpse at some of the unsung heroes of the show. 


“I started in theatre when I was in Grade 11. I did art at school and was helping a friend make some props and I kinda just stayed on the show. It was a ballet for The South African Ballet Theatre. They wanted me to leave, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to, and they didn’t pay me. I just stuck it out and I’ve been in the industry for going on 12 years. I love the spontaneity of it all and thinking on your feet and problem solving at the spur of the moment.”- Amy Harris, Assistant Stage Manager
“A lot of people think it’s easy and you just push the faders up. But you have to attend rehearsals and program the desk and plan everything; the sound effects, working with the sound designer and radio ops. On a show day you’re mixing the show. It can be different every day because of the number of people in the audience. You have to have a good set of ears. A performer could be sick, an understudy could be on. So you have to listen all the time. People don’t generally mention the sound. Sound only gets mentioned if there’s a problem so you have to get your own joy out of it. It’s quite a lonely thing because it’s just me and the lighting operator out here while everyone else is backstage together. But I also quite enjoy the solitude of it.”- Cara Dowling, Sound Engineer
“I got started totally by chance. The chaperone on The Sound of Music ended up getting chicken pox and I was asked if I could learn the tracks in a couple of hours and do the double show weekend. I love seeing the growth in the kids, from day one when they arrive and don’t know anyone and freak out. And then they start to establish themselves and see what they can do and their talent. And when they do relax, you see a child grow into a professional artist.” –Lucy Brittany Woolley, Chaperone


“I started in 1996. I finished nursing because I wanted to raise my own kids. But then I got bored and my sister introduced me to the theatre. I really love the challenges that come with dressing people. Some of the quick changes, the adrenalin rush! It’s so fast! It’s team work, a beautiful bunch of people [that] I work with. We’ve developed skills repairing things you never thought you could fix, shoes, jewelry, hats. We get the job done and the show goes on. There are hiccups sometimes but you just get over that hill and make it work for everyone.” – Naseba Daniels, Principal Dresser


“I’ve been in the entertainment industry my entire adult life. I was a dancer. Now I’m behind the scenes. I deal with the admin, anything with a paper trail, and the drama. The best thing about this job, I have to honestly say, is the company. People who are so unpretentious, very humble and extremely hard working. That’s what gives me pleasure and gets me through every day. And the fact that every day is different. There’s never a dull moment.” Sandra de Jager, Company Manager
“I studied entertainment technology and specialized in costumes and make-up. I love how people express themselves with clothing. There’s always a challenge in theatre. It’s live. You always have to be ready, in the mind-set that anything can go wrong and you need to problem solve wherever needed.”- Melissa van Eck, Deputy Head of Wardrobe

Elzarie“The best advice I’ve ever gotten was “it doesn’t have to be perfect,” even though you want it to be. I studied entertainment technology. [I] first went into television and didn’t like it. I always wanted to do theatre. I first did Dreamgirls, then I did Phantom for four years, then Annie and now this [Priscilla.] I create magic at the moment, but I kinda feel there is something more and that’s why I want to be a paramedic. Still, I’m proud of what I do. For an hour or two you make people happy.”- Elzarie Botha, Wig stylist



“I’m a qualified hairdresser. I got an opportunity to do theatre and then I decided it was more interesting than working in a salon all day. It’s never normal styling. There’s always something that’s a bit more creative. You have to have an aptitude for this but also a passion. Each show offers a different challenge. Sometimes it’s very natural, sometimes very creative. Every show is unique in some way.”- Soekie Haupt, Wig stylist
“I love calling the show. It’s like putting everything together, like a recipe and it only works once it’s all mixed together. The challenge is always the people. We’re not working with a bunch of librarians. Things are simple in theory until you do it with a bunch of real life people. The people are always the thing that makes it hard, but at the same time it’s also the people who make it really great.”- Carine Bothma, Stage Manager
“I used to perform and after the show I would go to the wig room and make them coffee. Eventually I started washing the hair, blow drying and combing it out for them. And I got interested in it. The girl I used to work with in Phantom taught me how to knot, so I started making wigs, beards and mustaches. You have to know how to measure the head properly and lay the hair in the right directions. It’s done with something like a croquet needle but much finer. You have to import a specific lace that blends with the skin and the right lights. It’s very therapeutic but tiring. Your hands ache. You have to take breaks, but you don’t want to because you want to finish. It can take months.” – Mona Botha, Wig Stylist

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is playing at The Teatro at Montecasino until July 18th. For tickets, click here.

All photos were taken by Candice van Litsenborgh. You can follow her on TwitterFacebook or through her production company, Canned Rice.

To read about Candice on Sarafina Magazine, click here.

Candice van Litsenborgh maintains copyrights over all images. For usage or inquiries, please contact us.


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