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Newbie playwright examines the art that “lacks artistic merit”

PETER TROMP spoke to AMY JEPHTA, emerging young playwright and director, about her new show ‘Pornography,’ why she is not concerned that people might be scared off by the title, her addiction to coffee and why she wants more company in her profession.

What motivated you to start a career in show business?
I’ve always been more fascinated by the performing arts than any other occupation. I would choose the creative path over a practical career. I’m not a fan of the nine to five, and I don’t really like structure and bosses. I thought theatre would be one of the few occupations where I could be my own boss, and that appealed to me.

At this premature stage of your career, what are among your personal highlights so far?
Very premature. But I’d say the biggest highlight is being able to work, meet and befriend the people whose work I admire and look up to. I’ve had the pleasure of working and learning from some very respected names in Cape Town theatre, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

  Amy JephtaAmy Jephta

Tell us about your new play ‘Pornography.’ What inspired the idea, and what can audiences look forward to?
The play is about two people who have dreams that are much bigger than their situation, and come up with a slightly skewed plan to achieve wealth. I can’t really say where the idea came from. It was sparked by the first lines spoken by a man and a woman, and developed into a relationship study. I think it’ll make for a pretty entertaining night out.

How did you decide on the title? Are you concerned at all that people might be scared off by it?
The title was the last thing I decided on, actually. I thought it needed a bit of a bite, a little bit of an edge, but a good title also has multiple meanings except the obvious. I came across a definition that described “pornography’” as being “writings, drawings or visual material which lacks artistic merit.” I liked the double meaning. I realized that some people may be scared off, but I also knew that some people would be intrigued. If I saw a show with that title, I’d be intrigued.

Tell us about the performers in the show, and your experience working with them.
Charlie Keegan and Taryn Nightingale are both graduates from UCT Drama school, like I am. Charlie was a year ahead of me and Taryn was in my year. I’ve always admired them both as actors. Both of them are very hard working and quite serious about their acting careers. I like working with people who take this profession as seriously as I do, yet don’t take it seriously at all. Both of them were a real pleasure to work with.

What ingredients usually need to be in place for you to commit to penning a new play?
Lots of coffee. An idea that’s been sitting for a while, demanding to be written. And usually, having a bill to pay is a helpful motivation.
What are some of your enduring fascinations, inspirations and influences in your work?
Fascinations: Language and the incredible twists and turns possible with 26 letters, apocalypse movie and countries I haven’t been to.
Inspirations: Playwrights - living and dead, Chuck Palaniuk, Irvine Welsh, Bret Easton Ellis, Charles Bukowski and Woody Allen, celebrity trash culture, the internet and listening to other people’s conversations.
Influences : Everyone I know, anything I hear, everything I’ve seen.

As a relative newcomer, tell us about your impressions so far of the theatre industry. Is it an inviting place for new writers?
Inviting, definitely. There aren’t enough young people writing for theatre. It’s such an underused platform. Everyone wants to be a pop star. Everyone wants to be on TV. Not enough young people want to write for the stage. That’s pretty good for me, though, because it means I’m welcomed quite warmly. It would be great to have some more people my age, though, doing this writing thing with me.

* ‘Pornography’ is showing at the Intimate Theatre at UCT’s Hiddingh Drama Campus on Orange Street until October 16. Book on 078 406 0509.

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