RADAR 2013: Q&A with Amy Jephta

Today we talk to Cape Town-based playwright and theatre-maker Amy Jephta whose play Free Falling Bird will show as a sneak peek at RADAR 2013 on Friday 8th November.

Tell us about this work in one sentence.

It’s a remixed, reworked, South African encounter with the Euripides’ Trojan Women.

What questions lies at the heart of the work; what are you asking the audience?

At the centre of the work is a question that asks us, the audience, to consider the fallout of a war not necessarily waged in any of the ways we recognise. In South Africa in particular, what is the war that wages at home, between men and women, and how do women make a narrative for themselves not perceived through a dominant male experience? I suppose we are asking how women can reclaim a space for themselves in a contemporary South Africa?

What sparked the original idea for this piece and how has it evolved?

The piece was written as a series of unconnected monologues and struggled to find a frame for a long time before I re-read the Trojan Women. I then realised that Euripides’ classic offered the perfect container for the story I was trying to tell.

What excites you about being part of RADAR 2013?

Having a voice on a platform in the midst of so many other inspiring playwrights, theatremakers, directors. The festival is a place where challenging new work sees first light, and I’m honoured to be considered a part of that. I’m most excited to see what other young writers are thinking about right now and getting a feel for the kinds of conversations going on in their minds.

Do you feel your work is inspired by, responding to or reacting against any work from wider culture?

Yes – It wasn’t to begin with, but I’ve recently started reading into the aesthetic and cultural movement called Afrofuturism as an influence and inspiration for the images and thoughts in the play. (Here are some links to stuff that are good introductions – icrates.orgrahkyt.comnicolesconiers.com)

I’m inspired by jazz, especially improvisational and free form jazz and those kind of rhythmic experiments, and how that can feed into or translate as or even peripherally influence language.

What direction do you feel yourself moving in creatively, and what comes next for you as an artist?

More collaborations! This process has showed me how useful and inspiring it is to not be the only person in a room, how to work with other artists and create with them. I want to move into doing more projects where I’m part of a team of collaborators. Writing is a very solitary pursuit and you forget how beneficial it is to constantly be challenged and talking about your work. So that’s what I want from future projects.

We’re compiling a RADAR playlist to play in the bar throughout the festival, what songs would you add to it and why?

100 Black Coffins by Rick Ross from the Django Unchained soundtrack, All Black Everything from Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers album, Parliament’s Mothership Connection albumBlackbird by Fat Freddy’s Drop and South African History X by Kyle Shepherd. These are all sounds from my official writing soundtrack. And if they can inspire me to write, I think they’re doing the job of breaking down walls and building bridges pretty well.