Updated July 28, 2014
Guiding Two Families
Lindiwe Dlamini and Bongi Duma of Disney’s The Lion King share their experiences both on and off stage as Broadway vets and Equity Deputies.
For eight shows a week, for close to six years, Lindiwe Dlamini and Bongi Duma were commuting from the Poconos in Pennsylvania to the Minskoff Theatre in New York City. It was a round trip teetering on 1,250 miles and 30 hours per week — give or take.
The daily, tedious drive, however, always proved its worth once the married couple arrived at the theatre — they were at their home away from home and among their theatrical family, the cast of The Lion King.
For Dlamini, an original Broadway company member, and Duma, a 10-year vet of the Broadway production, and an original company member of the Hamburg, Germany production, The Lion King cast and crew has truly become an intimate extension of their own household.
“It’s still exciting,” Duma said. “It’s an interesting job we have because you have a full day at home and then in the evening you come to work. You look forward to going to work in another way because it’s an escape for us, and then that’s our way out to the second family.”
“The more fun, exciting family,” Dlamini laughed.
The production didn’t only introduce Dlamini and Duma to their “brothers and sisters” on stage, but it also sparked a connection for the couple itself. When Duma arrived to the Broadway production 10 years ago, Dlamini played host to the NYC-newbie, taking him sightseeing, to restaurants and shopping.
“He likes to shop,” she stated.
“Rarely,” Duma quickly added.
“He likes to shop more than me.”
As their relationship got more serious, the duo discovered that they had quite a bit in common; they’re both from the same hometown — Debin, South Africa — and they each have incredibly artistic families.
Dlamini’s sister was also in the original company of The Lion King, and went on to perform in two tours of the musical, and Duma’s brother, a London-based actor, just recently performed for Queen Elizabeth II.
When the two got married in 2006, they decided to follow in the traditions of their home country and Zulu people, customs that started with the engagement.
“At home, the proposal doesn’t go between the two of us, it goes through the families,” Duma said. “You send your family representatives to her family’s representatives to make it happen. We decided not to take Western values with proposing.”
Though, Dlamini teased that while they were dating, Duma said he would marry her.
“At first I was joking,” he stated.
“My mom took him seriously,” Dlamini said. “My mom said, ‘Yeah, he’s handsome. Go for it.’”
Now, along with Dlamini’s two children (one grown and out of the house and the other a senior in high school), the couple have a just-turned six-year-old daughter already eyeing the Great White Way.
But, in addition to raising a family at home, the couple feels that after spending so many years with the company, and learning about the business and Equity, they could take on more of a guardian role as Equity Deputies.
“In my dressing room I can tell that some of the cast are younger and they really don’t know the rules of Equity,” said Duma. “They know that they’re in a union and they pay dues, but they don’t know what role Equity plays for them as actors.”
That’s when Dlamini and Duma decided to step in and help guide the up-and-coming cast.
According to the actors, the most important thing about being a deputy is making sure that all actors, new or otherwise, understand what Equity does and can do for them. And, aside from being a mainstay in the production and knowing the producers and AEA staff, the couple is proud to explain rules, offer advice and as Duma put it, “to maintain the integrity of the environment of the actors.”
“With us coming from another country, Equity has been on our side since I came here in 1987 with another show,” said Dlamini. “I feel more proud to have both on my résumé: being an Equity Deputy and being in The Lion King. I like those two things combined — I’m very proud to be representing Equity.”
Being a deputy and learning the ins-and-outs of their contract type and union rules have inspired the two to want to start an actors’ union in South Africa. More than that, the couple would like to eventually travel back to their home country to teach and train potential actors at a professional level, which means anything and everything from writing a résumé to reading music.
Now, having moved to New Jersey two years ago, their drive is less than 30 minutes, depending on traffic, which Dlamini said is more stressful than commuting from the Poconos.
But, it’s certainly closer to their home at the Minskoff Pride Lands.