BY TENDAI SAUTA
MULTIPLE-AWARD winner for stage performance, theatre production, film and television producer Jasen Mphepo has pledged full commitment to advocate, counsel, mediate and preach through theatre.
Mphepo said that, through his Patsimeredu Edutainment Trust, he intends to relay all transformative information on social, political and economic issues to the Zimbabwean societies and beyond.
“I also run the Jasen Mphepo Little Theatre which was established in 2018 and is the third private and independent black theatre outfit in post-independent Zimbabwe after Amakhosi and Theatre in the Park. Both institutions run excellent programming and employ young artists from across Zimbabwe. Our work is spread out to many parts of the country such as in Mutare, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi and Karoi. Mphepo runs a scholarship fund which supports underprivileged students at Mlichi Primary School in Karoi. To date, over 300 students have been supported since project inception in 2016.
“The Jasen Mphepo Little Theatre is a pristine creative space which hosts a plethora of activities such as theatre, poetry, music, dance and theatre training programmes.”
A few days after talking to Zambian creative Mwangala Muyendekwa who said drama and theatrical presentations were the main mediums for raising awareness on prevention and cure for malaria in Zambia, Mphepo had this to say: “In my opinion and experience, theatre takes the role of advocate, counselor, mediator and preacher. Ours is a gospel that reaches people en masse, thus providing them with relevant and contextual information and knowledge which they may or may not use to empower themselves and others in their circle of influence and at the end of the day solve their problems. Theatre in the community is therapeutic, while taking people through different levels of emotions through laughter and tears” .
Mphepo laments the slow pace at which theatre is developing because of lack of dedicated training spaces. Theatre has been a source of employment to many and it is important because it brings real life experiences under scrutiny in an engaging way. One such example is the Waiters TV series in which Jaison featured as Marcellino. The Waiters theatrical series became the talk of the town and was a must-watch for every
“Currently, as far as I know, we do not have many institutions that are training people in theatre. Actually it is disappointing to learn that two of the key universities in Zimbabwe have dropped theatre as a degree. This is so disheartening and discouraging as it shows no one is valuing theatre. Currently, the Zimbabwe Theatre Academy is running an amazing theatre training programme for young disadvantaged artists, while Chipawo is focussed on training for children and Jasen Mphepo Little Theatre is training school students. These are the institutions in the arts focussed on theatre training,” Mphepo said.
He said he was very optimistic about a future whereby big audiences would come to appreciate the role of theatre anddrama.
“I am strongly recommending that the government of Zimbabwe, through the Youth, Sport,Arts and Recreation ministry, should support the creative sector financially by awarding grants to the sector. Local broadcast platforms such as TV and radio should also create spaces for theatre as a creative sector by producing TV and radio dramas. The corporate sector should also step up either through sponsorship or corporate social responsibility,” Mphepo added.
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