Following the success of her Wrestling With Dawn production in late 2015, and 2016's sold-out masterpiece Around The Fire, the much-applauded producer, playwright, performer, poet and UCT masters graduate Siphokazi Jonas is rekindling Around The Fire this week in Cape Town.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Jonas has unpacked, rebuilt and infused the original 90-minute stage production for its Artscape Arena reveal, 7-11 August in Cape Town.
With the world having been tossed and turned in all directions, both socially and politically, so many of the original production’s themes have evolved to acknowledge the likes of the #MeToo movement and other global social media realities touching almost everyone’s lives today.
Staying true to the original South African script, the entirely accessible and adapted narrative unfolds within a unique fusion of theatre, poetry and live music.
I spoke to Jonas last week during rehearsals at the Artscape.
When are you happiest?
Spending guilt-free time with family and friends or at the beach; these are the times when I am most at ease.
What does poetry mean to you?
The ability to imagine new worlds and experiences through the written and spoken word. Speaking gives life and I love to give life through poetry to our better selves, healing, hope, and faith.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work?
How people respond to it. When the work impacts another person and opens them up emotionally, I am always blown away. It means we find common ground in our humanity; there are few things more satisfying than that. I also just love playing with words, to find the most creative way to express something completely ordinary.
What drives you, ego or humility?
Surely saying “humility” would be the most egotistical answer! I am striving towards humility and away from ego; it is a lifelong pursuit. Ego gets in the way of truth.
Any funny moments on stage?
Plenty! Usually bantering with lively audiences. I love weaving humour with storytelling.
People who choose conviction over public opinion.
Which living person do you admire most and why?
I’m going to choose two: Dr Trevor Jones (the film composer) and Serena Williams. It simply doesn’t get more 'on top of your game’ than that. Both started on the back foot and have put in more than their ten thousand hours in their craft. They value relationships and are completely unfazed by the magnitude of their achievements.
What is your most treasured possession?
A dollar I kept from my first-ever trip to the USA. It represents the first time that the world “shrunk” for me and my goals became much bigger.
It’s your round what are you drinking?
Dream gig to do?
I’ve already done one of them in LA in 2016. The second would be a Super Bowl half-time with Beyoncé. I’ve actually dreamed about this twice… The second would be on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, just for that South African connection!
What makes you stand out?
I care deeply about both the work and the people on the other side of the microphone or pen. I am always willing to learn.
Job (in the Bible), Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, Ron Villanueva’s Reliquaria, anything by Gabeba Baderoon and my upcoming poetry collection.
Greatest movie ever made?
The Lion King!
What poem changed your life?
“I will wait for you” by Jeanette Watson. It wasn’t necessarily the poem but watching her perform it was life-changing and led me down a path which ended up in friendship and performing on the same stage in LA five years later.
Who do you love?
Quite a few people. I am working to add myself to that list without reservation.
What is your favourite word?
Favourite fashion garment
Give us some real proper slang and what it means.
Cava (Zulu) – to understand/“get it”
Top of your bucket list?
Travel to every continent in the world.
Your greatest achievement?
Trying to make a living as a full-time artist even though I have tried and failed before. I am convinced that I can do it.
What do you complain about most often?
What is your fear?
Not being able to show my parents appreciation for supporting me on this path despite their own fears and reservations.
Living out your purpose.
On stage I tend to?
Lose sense of where I am.
The best life lesson I have been taught.
Pursue excellence not perfection.
Where would you like to be right now?
The USA, collaborating with some of my favourite poets and working to improve in a different environment. Also trying to connect with Beyoncé and Trevor so that we can put together those dream gigs. Maybe I can also get Dr Trevor Jones to recommend my upcoming poetry collection as a must-read!
Wishes and dreams for 2018?
Being better with taking care of the “vessel”. The success of my current production Around the Fire - enough to tour with it. Launching a schools’ poetry project, Page the Stage. Add more hours in my craft towards the ten thousand goal.
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