Kenyan Becomes the First African to be Admitted to the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar

Mercy Dorcas Otieno

I bet you might remember her from her role in Gott ist ein Deutscher, or from my article Actress per excellence, Mercy Dorcas Otieno. An amazing actress and a very hardworking lady that has beat all odds to come out tops. She recently got admission to the Max-Reinhardt Seminar, becoming the first African ever to be admitted to the elite institution. She is among the 13 chosen from 510 applicants.

The Max-Reinhardt Seminar was founded in 1929 by Max Reinhardt as part of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. In its close to 100 years of existence it has NEVER admitted an African student. The Seminar known to only take the very best actors and actresses in Europe, chose our very own Mercy Dorcas.

I talked to her about her journey and her realisation of her dream.

Hi Mercy, tell us a little about who Mercy Dorcas Otieno is:

My name is Mercy Dorcas Otieno. Iam 25 years old and I was born in Narobi. My first childhood years were spent with my Grandma and afterwards I joined my Mum and family in Nairobi .


You were born and raised in Kenya, how was your life there? (Primary and Secondary school etc)

The first 9 years I went to Nyapitho Primary school and later I went to Bondeni Primary school in Kayole. I was in Rae girls High School in Nyando district in Nyanza Province.


In 2006, you came to Germany as an au pair. How did you learn of the au pair program? Why Germany?

My Aunt used to live in England and considering I really love taking care of kids, she proposed I go to Germany for one year and get to know another culture and I thought like why not? So I contacted an agency in Nairobi and had to do a 3 months German course.

What were your goals when you came as an au pair?

My goal was to do one year Aupair and go back to kenya and do Mass comunication or Journalism or Pr Public relations.


How was your experience as an au pair? The first day?

My experience in Germany was not really good. The first family threw me out after a month. I then looked for a second family in Bayern and stayed there for 9 months, they also threw me out on my birthday. I only had three months left before my visa expired so I was in a position to manage and get the third family. I stayed with the third family for three months and then I didn’t have money to fly back home so I had to look for alternatives and the option were: to get married and remain in Germany; find a family or do a sozial year. I didn’t have the financial means of going back to Kenya so I looked for a family in Austria. It’s a long story maybe one day I will have time to tell it and inspire when I talk about it in details.


Mercy Dorcas Otieno

You later moved to another family in Kapfenstein? Why to Austria and not another family in Germany?

I didn’t have many options so I looked for a host Family via the internet on Aupairworld and got one. In Austria things were different, my host family became my family. To this day, we are very close. Actually as I write this I’m sitting at the table with my Austrian Mum.


How was the experience in Austria? Was it different from your experience in Germany?

I came to Austria and things are very different. After one year I decided not to go back to Kenya. So I looked for a chance at the University and I was admitted to study Sociology. I was also looking for a job and this was a small city in Austria called Graz. Graz was for me the next city after kapfenstein where i could study.


How did you get into acting in Graz?

It’s usually said when you go to Rome do how the Romans do….
I had to study and work at the same time. But the beginnings in life are always hard. I was looking for jobs but didn’t get any good ones. I was working as a waitress and when I was fired, I got depressed in winter and regretted having stayed in Austrai but as the small voice always says “something good is coming”. I went to look for student jobs in the confusion of not having a job, and I saw a poster and it was written ” We are looking for immigrant who would like to work in our production”. But we were not being paid. For me it was for fun. I was going to school and acting. Sometimes I missed class and acted. I was working on my language through acting, it was not always easy but where there is a will their is a way.


You joined University in Graz while you continued to act. How were you able to juggle? How did you finance your studies?

The frustration of not having a stable job was really hard but through acting I could write about the challenges that I underwent on the daily routine and act it on stage so it was kind of a therapie for me. I was selling newspapers on the street. With my broken German, I would prepare powerpoint presentations for school and do exchanges with schools. I started writing recepies and doing cooking workshops. I decided to use my culture and what I knew to do cultural exchange and earn money at the same time.


Your first BIG play was “Einer, der auszog“ could you share how you got the part as well as, your first reaction when they told you, you had gotten the part.

The Play “Eine der Auszog” translated as “Aliye hama”.

I was looking for a babysitting job and had gone in for an interview. At the interview, they told me they didn’t have a job for me. I was coming down the staircase really upset and broken when I saw a poster for a casting. I called the number on the poster but no one picked, so I left a voice message with no hope that they would call me back. Two weeks later I received a call to go to the town theater in Graz(Schauspielhaus Graz). I went for a casting knowing I had to give my everything. I was happy to be in another world.


A friend recently convinced you to try your hand at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar. How was the experience, applying, the audtions and finally getting the results

He didn’t convince me, he inspired me. When I looked at the website I never saw an African so I was thinking why would they take me? But a friend told me not to think small of myself and close the doors. He just said “You have nothing to loose”.

You’ve now been admitted to the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar, and you’re the first African to ever make it that far. How does that make you feel.

It made me feel humbled and really appreciative, knowing that I stand not only for my family but for Kenya, Africa as a continent and Austria where I’m also at home. Everybody will be watching my steps.


You speak very fondly of your grand parents, what role have they played in your life.

My grandparent are very humble people but very wise. they inspire me alot because I learnt a lot the first 9 years of living with them. I am named Dorcas after my Grandma. She preaches love, patience, understanding, and resilience. She says “Always tie the Belt of hardwork on your waste and you will go places”


What is your advice to young people coming to Europe? Or to those already here.

Go your way trust your intuation. Live your dreams.Talk less and do Much.


What you didn’t know about Mercy

1. Favourite food? Susa and Ugali ya wimbi

2. Favourite colour? White, red, orange, yellow, green bright colours

3. Greatest achievement? Being the granddaughter of Mama Dorcas and getting in Max Reinhart seminar as the first African

4. Greatest fear? when i follow a way but cant see the tunnel at the other end

5. Most embarrassing moment? When wore my top inside out.

Check out her website: Mercy Dorcas

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