This week I sat down with award winning South African playwright, Amy Jephta.
Capetown, South Africa
A trip with my family on holiday to Geoffrey’s Bay
“What exactly is Afrikaans?”
It’s a derivative of Dutch. It’s a colonial language brought over by settlers.
If you’ve travelled abroad, name all the countries you’ve been to
France, Germany, UK, USA, Sweden, Switzerland. I think that’s it.
Two countries you wish you could go to:
Madagascar. Hyderabad, India.
“It’s funny because we think madagascar is all the way over there, but for South Africans it’s right there. “
Books and movies that have made you cry:
The first movies I cried at were Lassie and “my girl”. Books, “the Tigers Wife”; it’s a story that takes place during the Balkan war, which is really personal to me.
“Why is the Balkan war personal to you?”
My husband is Bosnian, and they fled the country during the war. Because of it his family is scattered all over the world. The consequences of the war strangely reached me as well.
What was it like writing your first ever play? What was it about?
I wrote my first ever pay in high school. It was really exhilarating because I had just learned the form, and I was just copying everything i enjoyed so I would read something I loved and try to write the exact same book. I was starting to read plays and I would read a Harold Pinter play which was the first ones I picked up and try to emulate him, and I found it exciting even though I was doing nothing new
Tell me a Little about your current project: What is it about, and how do you think your newer material has evolved from the older stuff?
Right now I’m finishing a final draft of a play called “All Who Pass” which is about a black family in Capetown who got moved out of their house during the Group Areas Act which were the Apartheid evictions mass evictions, where black people were moved out of the city and away from the good areas of Capetown.
That’s what’s being portrayed in the movie district 9?
Yea, it’s loosely based on a township.
so I plan on completing the final draft and the family comes back to that piece of land they were exiled from seven years later.I don’t know if i’ve improved dramatically but I do think it changed what I’m interested in. I used to write really light work, in the past few years though I’ve become very political and politically active in my work.
Do you prefer to write about South Africa? Do you ever feel obligated to write plays about South Africa and its history?
I feel writers have a certain kind of obligation to their country and the place they come from; to write work thats relevant and to write works that are pertinent. To be critical about it.
Tell me about your writing process. Are you disciplined? or will you only write when you have inspiration?
I’m not very disciplined, which is one of my weakest points. I’ve tried to approach writing in a structured way and it just never works for me because I feel that that’s the surest way for me to writer’s block. It goes through spells. I’ll have two weeks of really intense inspiration and writing and fill lots of pages and then having six months where I’m hitting my head against the wall. I try to just roll with it.
Which is your preference, theatre or film?
I prefer theatre, because I think theatre is the realm of imagination and there is a lot of space to play for a playwright. theres a lot more room to experiment. Theatre gives you more scope to be crazy, which is what I love about it.
There’s a lot of stuff we hear in America, that things are getting worse for South Africa; violence, power outages, etc. Are you optimistic about the future?
I’m optimistic, yes, but you may not be able to tell from my writing. I feel that I obligated to say what’s wrong and to point out what’s wrong. I really love the country though and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I think there is a lot of positivity. It is not always as bad as it is portrayed.
What is it like working with students at Queens College?
We did a cross collaboration between my university and QC with me as the medium. I got 15 students to take a picture of a place they found interesting or exciting or beautiful, and address it as a postcard to one of the students here. And the students here do the same. So they’re cross pollinating and talking to one another about space and how space can be political and have many layers. There were some knowledge gaps about what students knew about South Africa. Overall I found it all really exciting.
What would be your advice for QC students majoring in theatre?
I do encourage them to watch a lot more theatre. It was surprising when I asked them what the last thing they had seen was, a lot of them couldnt give me an answer, and some of them kind of referred to mass broadway musicals. I challenged them to see one play this semester and write about it.
TV shows: Just list them
“Mad Men.” Pretty much Madmen, I’m a Madmen freak. I love Community. Oh and “The Wire.”
If you’re really bored what’s your go to place on the internet?
Buzzfeed, god, time sucking scourge of my life. Buzzfeed food.
If you could be obscenely wealthy and powerful in any age, time, culture, or country etc…, which would it be? and why?
I always find that a difficult question. I feel like nostalgia doesn’t apply to me because, controversially, I’m black, so wherever I want to transport myself in history it’s not a good time for black people.
Theres a great Louis CK about that.
I would want to go into the future into like a cyborg future.Like the year 3000 when we’re all robots is what I would want to see.
If you could have any job,assuming all salaries for every job are equal, what would you want to do? why?
I’d probably want to be an entertainer journalist on the red carpet. Not very intellectual but I would totally embrace it.
Would you let someone pay for you on a date / would you insist on paying for a date? why?
I usually insist on going dutch, because I don’t like being paid for. I feel like I owe the person something, which is very awkward. so I usually insist on paying my half. I think if you invite someone out though it’s your responsibility to pay, girl or guy.
Thanks for your time Amy!