PROFILE | MOMO MATSUNYANE

PROFILE | MOMO MATSUNYANE | ACTOR SPACES

By Mandi Poefficient Vundla |

MOMO MATSUNYANE – The Jack of all Plays, Theatre practitioner and Wits Alumni, Kgomotso ‘MoMo’ Matsunyane is a slave to her craft. She is always working in-between productions and reaching  her for an interview has proven to be a rather challenging task.

Following her role as director for Mooi Street Moves and Tau, Momo glides into Spring
with a rerun of Animal Farm at the Market Theatre and a Thenx Ladies production
at the Pop Art. Thenx is a comedy group comprised of four women  who turn political commentary into satire and Animal farm is a play written by Goerge Owell; first published in England on 17 August 1945.  In both upcoming productions Matsunyane will be shifting gears and changing hats, from her previous role as director to actress. We peer into her busy schedule as she takes us through the challenging journey of being a triple talent, finding balance and applying her voice as a woman, in a man’s story in Tau.

Tau: the play that won the Zwakala Festival in 2015, is a story about a group of  young men who are preparing for initiation school. The lead Tau gets involved in Homo- Erotic behavior whilst on the mountain and because this will result in negative implications for the culture, a decision is
taken to kill the men.

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What are the challenges of taking on a black man’s Homosexual story when the tradition excludes women from this conversation?

There were times when I felt unsafe, not because i was in any danger but because contributing to this story as a woman is cultural taboo. We are not allowed to engage in these conversations, so it was very important for me to ensure that my voice is heard. If I have a son and he attends initiation school. I need to be able to understand the process so that i can provide the necessary support
I imposed myself in the text as well to include the challenges that women face and to ensure that we are not misrepresented.

How do you maintain your balance when working on multiple productions?

A day in my life is crazy, I usually work on two or three productions at a time.
Not because I think I’m super woman but because I need the money. I wake up very early in the morning, to get to one rehearsal, right now I’m busy with Tau and things are going to be much easier now that Mooi Street has moved has moved into the State Theatre.

What makes a great play?

A Beginning, Middle and End. We chuckle… Because of course we know there’s
more to it than that. She elaborates further: The story begins once you’ve established the conflict.
The framing of the narrative also makes it interesting. Once there is truth in a play
then we can engage.

What is a director responsibility?

To ensure that each rehearsal happens progressively. A director’s job is to determine what the vision of the story is then to apply the components that will make it complete. Like directing the actors; the blocking, sounds effects. Mapping out the visual story- telling

How do you select which productions to work on?
The story must resonates with me and my beliefs. If I’m playing a submissive black person and I feel that the play is not going to do contribute towards furthering the black narrative then i won’t do it. I chose work that speaks to me. It must be challenging, I like something that is not too easy.

What has been your worst acting experience?
There Is one play I was not happy to be in. After a couple of performances I asked myself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ Since then I decided never to do anything that doesn’t resonate with my political views
because what I represent on stage is very important. Representation influences how people will read both you and the story. If I’m playing a character that disempowers my race and women, it doesn’t do me any justice.

‘Matsunyane’ is an influential surname in the South African entertainment industry,
has this pressurized you in any way?

In my third year of varsity it was very hard because people would respond positively or negatively when they’d see my name on the audition list, which was very unfair on me because I was coming in the capacity of Momo with my skills and talents. The pressure is rife, when people realize who my father is, they want to know if I can crack it without him and that pushes me to excel but unlike him,
I am seldom on T.V, I have carved a voice for myself in theatre and my parents are proud of how I was able to do so on my own accord.

Please give us insight on the Play you wrote titled ‘Penny’

Penny is a play I wrote last year, Zethu and I were approached by Wits Theatre to write and direct a play, she decided to be the performer because she was not yet ready to direct so I took up the challenge. I named it Penny, after my late mother, but the story has nothing to do with her. I was just paying respect to her memory. The play is actually about the challenges a young woman faces in the acting industry.

What is the process of staging a play?

It’s a complex process because you can’t stage your first draft,
within the writing process, you need to ask for feedback from your peers first.
Funding is a factor, if we weren’t commissioned ‘Penny’ wouldn’t exist.
It’s important that people put money into productions.
From there, you flesh out the ideas, it helps to have a first run because it enables you to rework the script. You definitely need honest and critical support and the play needs to be accessible to people.

To catch a glimpse of Momo’s expertise, visit the Pop Art Theatre in Maboneng
where Thenx will run from 1-4 September and Animal Farm at the Market Theatre
from September 20th

PORTRAITS | MOMO MATSUNYANE

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