The death of theatre stalwart Themi Venturas is a major blow for dramatic arts across the country.
Venturas, 59, who grew up in Port Elizabeth and cut his theatrical teeth in the city, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Monday evening.
Since news of his death broke, industry professionals, colleagues and admirers of his work, both locally and nationally, have posted glowing tributes on social media to his contribution to the theatre industry. Venturas was diagnosed with the cancer in April. He was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Port Elizabeth as a young child.
Venturas lived in Central during his early years and matriculated from Marist Brothers College.
He was actively involved in theatre and instrumental in the establishment of the Performing Arts Network of South Africa’s Eastern Cape branch.
He was involved in the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival Young-Uns, before directing a number of shows for the Shakespearean company.
With a career spanning 30 years, Venturas directed, and in many cases produced, more than 500 stage productions.
Port Elizabeth thespians yesterday spoke in glowing terms of Venturas.
Actress, director and drama teacher Linda-Louise Swain said the theatre community across South Africa was saddened by his death.
“He put a lot of people on stage. There is this huge loss,” she said. “He always had time for everyone.”
Swain said Venturas had always wanted to play the role of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
A rendition of the Shakespearean story would be conducted in his honour at the Manville Open Air Theatre festival in February, she said.
Sharon Rother, who runs the Rother Swain Drama Studio along with Swain, said: “I am devastated.
“Everything he touched was brilliant. He was so amazing in developing raw talent, apart from being a very talented performer himself who did a lot of great work here in Port Elizabeth.”
Theatre colleague Bruce Sanderson said his friend’s death was a huge loss for the industry.
Venturas is survived by his wife, Trish, and sons Matthew and Alexander.
Details regarding his funeral have not been made available yet.