Aaron Glenane and Tinashe Mangwana Bring KING JAMES to Life

Producer & Actor Aaron Glenane

Aaron Glenane’s career has been nothing short of a whirlwind tour through the diverse realms of film and television. Known for his chameleonic roles in productions like Shantaram, Interceptor, Happy Feet 2, and Molly, Glenane now steps into a new challenge: producing and starring in the Australian premiere of the Broadway play ‘King James’. This project marks the debut production for his new company, Little Ripa Productions, and promises to be a milestone in his already diverse career.

A Passion for Live Performance

Reflecting on his career, Glenane shares, “Bouncing from a tap dancing penguin to fighting Elsa Pataky on an oil rig has certainly been nothing short of diverse. I’m very grateful for this being my 18th year in the industry, predominantly film and TV. But my first love was discovered when I stepped on stage as an ‘orphan’ in Ballarat Light Opera Company’s production of Oliver! I fell head over heels for the adrenaline rush and connection of a live performance. Singing, dancing, and storytelling in that show set alight a fire in me that has continued on until today.”

This passion for live theatre is the driving force behind Glenane’s latest venture. “In the past four years, I’ve actively pushed to upskill myself in areas beyond acting such as directing, writing, and now producing, which has culminated in the foundation of Little Ripa Productions and the Australian Theatrical Premiere of ‘King James.’ This play is proving to be one of, if not the greatest challenge of my career so far in that it’s two actors, 100 minutes, and a whole lot of laughter, camaraderie, broken hearts, and basketball. I have a feeling by the end of the run this could be the work I’m most proud of,” he says.

Tinashe Mangwana & Aaron Glenane

From Gweru to the Stage: Tinashe Mangwana’s Journey to King James

Tinashe Mangwana’s path to the stage is nothing short of extraordinary. From his early days in Gweru, Zimbabwe, to his education at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), and now to his starring role in ‘King James’ alongside Aaron Glenane, Tinashe’s story is a testament to his talent, dedication, and passion for the arts.

In a recent interview, Tinashe reflected on how his diverse background and previous theatre experiences have prepared him for his role in King James. “I believe my experience with sports, especially basketball and football in different contexts from Gweru, Sydney, and the early days of the pandemic in 2020, allowed me to immediately relate to the core of this story and Shawn and Matt’s friendship,” he shared. This unique perspective has enabled Tinashe to bring an authentic and heartfelt portrayal to his character, drawing from his own life and experiences.

A Shared Love for Basketball

King James delves into the profound connections that sports, particularly basketball, can foster in our lives and relationships. Glenane’s personal connection to the sport is evident in his enthusiasm. “I grew up obsessed with Michael Jordan and the 90s Chicago Bulls. Posters covered my walls, trading cards were kept under tight security, and VHS NBA Jam Session tapes were disintegrated. So to find a play about basketball, written by my favorite playwright that had just completed its Steppenwolf Theatre Company premiere was remarkable.”

Glenane emphasizes that the play transcends its sports theme to explore deeper human connections. “Having waited for the rights to open up for two years, I was finally able to read ‘King James,’ and when I did, I was even more spellbound than I could’ve imagined. Not because I was a diehard basketball fan but because the play became so much more than about basketball. It quickly became about friendship, specifically male friendship, and how that is expressed and navigated. Following the four quarters of a game, we find our two unlikely friends at specific moments in their lives that mirror the experience of LeBron’s career. These die-hard Cleveland Cavalier fans celebrate each other, push each other, taunt each other, and betray each other, and we find ourselves wondering if they can forgive and love each other.”

“…a touching examination of male friendship and the powerful social currents beneath it.” —The New York Times.

For Tinashe, King James is more than just a play; it’s a story that resonates deeply with his own love for basketball. “For people who know me, I’m a huge basketball fan, especially with the NBA. Go Spurs!!” he exclaimed. The debates and conversations about basketball that are central to “King James” are ones Tinashe is intimately familiar with. “The conversations and the debates that these guys have about who’s the G.O.A.T, what it says about you if you follow a certain team, and what defines a ‘die-hard’ fan and a ‘bandwagon’ fan, I have weekly with my brother and friends,” he revealed.

A Collaborative Effort

The production of King James is a collaborative effort, featuring director Bali Padda and talented newcomer Tinashe Mangwana. Glenane speaks highly of his team. “Bali is more than the remarkable director of our team. He is the definition of multidisciplinary. He’s done it all! He’s been incredibly helpful in providing knowledge and insights across all departments as he has produced many highly successful productions himself. From a director’s standpoint, Bali is very much an actor’s director. He knows how to talk to actors… which can be bizarrely tricky! He creates a joyous space for exploration whilst also having a clear vision in mind.”

Aaron also praises his co-star. “And Tinashe is the real deal! He’s going to knock your socks off! He is able to turn the tap from tentative, beautiful open-heartedness to a strong, powerful leading man. All of us are bringing the sum of our experiences to the rehearsal room, sharing them, dissecting them, and letting them find their way into the story. I really hope you can feel our open hearts through the squeaking shoes on the court.”

Bringing King James to Sydney

As Tinashe prepares for the premiere of King James at The Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo, running from June 6-29th, he is excited to share this remarkable story with audiences. Directed by Australian director Bali Padda, ‘King James’ chronicles the friendship between two men, set against the backdrop of their shared love for basketball. It’s a beautifully funny and moving exploration of the place that sports occupy in our lives and relationships.

“Joseph has created one of the funniest and most moving plays about friendship in years… Basketball fans will love Joseph’s insidery jokes, but even if you don’t follow the game all that much, KING JAMES is a must-see.”— TheaterMania.



Season Details

Venue: The Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo
Dates: June 6 – 29th, 2024

Tickets for King James are on sale now, visit The Old Fitz Theatre.

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