Kambi Gathesha is a Kenyan actor, choreographer, and playwright living in the United States. He studied both at Columbia University in the fields of History and African Studies and at Juilliard in Acting. He has appeared Off-Broadway in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, No Exit and Moby Dick-Rehearsed as an actor. Kambi will also perform in The Rivals and Romeo and Juliet. As a dancer and choreographer, he has performed at: Downtown Dance Festival, Merce Cunningham, PMT, Columbia University, New York Live Arts, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, and the HERE Arts Center. His original one-act play, Decalage, premiered at Columbia University in the Spring of 2014.
How long had you been thinking about writing Decalage?
I have always been interested in developing my own work, and throughout the years have presented small versions of original work. The idea for Decalage came last summer as I was wrapping up an off-Broadway show I was acting in. I drafted the early versions of the script in September.
How did you come up with the name of the play
The name, Decalage, is a French word that has no direct translation in English. It can mean “gap,” “wedge,” “jet lag,” etc. Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia, Professor Brent Hayes Edwards, employs the term to theorize about social relations within African Diasporas. The metaphor of Decalage as a tool for understanding Diaspora fit in perfectly with my concept for the piece.
Did you show the initial drafts to anyone, if so, who saw them and what was the feedback?Yes. I had a writing circle that I met with every Thursday. I would write a draft and have those in the circle read the script aloud. Then they’d offer feedback or I would tweak some lines based on what I was hearing. With writing a play, it is essential to hear the language out loud. This writing circle was comprised of four people: Randolph Carr, Imani Brown, Bryant Brown, and Kwasi Adi Dako.
Would you have changed anything about the play?
I don’t if I would’ve changed anything about the play. Since I envisioned it as a one act play there were a lot of narratives I didn’t include. I would’ve liked to find a way to address gender and racial violence more fully. There have been some great bloggers writing articles about the role that gender plays in the public’s eagerness to mobilize around certain cases. And, at what point I thought about making creating the play around that idea- a female student of color shot and killed by police.
Do you follow the arts scene in Kenya, if so, what are your thoughts?
I follow the arts scene in Kenya, nominally. The music scene is very exciting with artists like Miriam Chemmoss and Eric Wainaina. I recently discovered the work of Kenyan Director, Wanuri Kahiu, whose science fiction short film, Pumzi, is incredible. There are some exciting voices in Kenya, and as a Kenyan living in the diaspora I am more committed than ever to [engage] with those voices.
Any new projects you are working on?
Yes. I am primarily an actor, so there is always another project in development. I am currently in rehearsals for an Off-Broadway play titled “The Rivals.” In terms of work that I am developing, I am currently working to tour Decalage to different universities in the fall and next spring. Additionally, I am developing a dance-centered musical on the history of hip-hop and freestyle dance in New York.
As an actor, my dream is to be on Broadway and to act in film and television; to have my original work produced globally; to move into producing and have my own production company; to be an artist with influence both in New York on Broadway and in California with film and television