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Meeting Maria

She’s gone from playing the eldest Von Trapp child in The Sound of Music to the coveted role of everyone’s favourite singing nun, Maria. We catch up with singer, dancer and actress Carmen Pretorius.

Shireen Fisher
Carmen Pretorius (28) has graced both the stage and screen, having starred in musicals like Mamma Mia!, Footloose, Jersey Boys and Cabaret; three Janice Honeyman productions; and as Lien Jooste in the Kyknet film Lien se Lankstaanskoene. She’s also appeared in local TV shows such as Isidingo, Binnelanders and Pasella. These days she’s playing the lead role of Maria onstage in the local production of The Sound of Music, currently on at Artscape in Cape Town.

Carmen got her big break 10 years ago, during matric. She’d entered M-Net’s High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa competition, but very nearly didn’t make it to her first audition.

‘I was finishing up my last high school show, Hello Dolly!, in which I played Dolly,’ she recounts. ‘I went to bed late, overslept and missed my flight. I was lying in bed that morning thinking I should just forget about the audition, but then something told me not to. I had R1000 in my bank account and the next flight cost R999 – so I just squeezed my eyes shut and bought the ticket.’ It paid off: she won the role of Gabriella Montez in the Pieter Toerien-Hazel Feldman production, jump-starting her career.

‘If I’d stayed in bed I would never be where I am today. It literally came down to getting out of bed!’

Carmen grew up on the West Rand in Johannesburg. She describes her parents as ‘dynamic and supportive’. Her mother is an optometrist and her father an electronic engineer, but they both also have a creative streak: her mom plays piano and a bit of violin, and took up the saxophone at age 50, while her dad paints and is a keen photographer. They divorced when Carmen was young, but she feels the experience helped mould her into the performer she is today.

‘It made me more empathetic,’ she says. ‘If you can understand people, or try to understand them, it makes you a better performer.’

Her childhood wasn’t conventional, says Carmen.

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May 2018

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