The South African theatre community has lost one of its brightest, most beloved and versatile stars, Themistocles “Themi” Venturas (59).
On Monday night, 11 September, Venturas lost his battle with pancreatic cancer while at a hospice, surrounded by his family. He leaves behind his wife Trish and sons Matthew (29) and Alexander (26).
“Those who knew Venturas well knew him to be a family man,” said Illa Thompson of Publicity Matters. “Venturas was old-school theatrical all-rounder whose work ethic, broad range of skills, and ability to multi-task would not have been out of place in his beloved Shakespeare’s time.
“His approach to theatre was much like the ring-master in an old travelling circus. Venturas worked in the industry for 30 years in many capacities: as an award-winning director, writer, performer, musician, producer and theatre manager of multiple venues and theatre companies.”
He directed, and in many cases produced, more than 500 productions ranging from revues, musical theatre, comedy, Shakespeare, opera, new South African works, and ceremonies and corporate events.
“A visionary community leader, Venturas was an active member and initiator of many performing arts civic associations, networking groups and funding bodies,” said Thompson.
Born in 1958 in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and sent to live in Port Elizabeth at the age of four, he loved theatre as a child, winning several beachfront talent contests. He wrote his first play in Gr 9.
He studied drama at UKZN from 1981 to 1984 and got an honour’s degree cum-laude. In 1993 Venturas started Themi Venturas Productions.
He was known for opening a myriad of community theatres including 214 St Thomas Rd, Limelight Theatre in uMhlanga, the Catalina Theatre in Wilsons Wharf, and most recently the intimate Isilulu Incubator in Clark Rd, among others.
Some of his career milestones include the opening of the ICC, The Africa Peace Awards and the Durban Millennium celebrations.
Venturas recently went back to study and had finished his intercultural theatre performance master’s dissertation.
“With tears in our eyes and love in our hearts, Durban’s theatre community gives you one last standing ovation dear Themi, for your dedication, inspiration, leadership, vision, friendship and care. Musho,” said Thompson.