Tiisetso Mashifane: "A Tragic Conversation on the Persistence of Sainthood" at New Voice Festival

Welcome to TV Series Hub, how would you define being an artist?
Hello, hello, hello, thank you for having me. This is always a funny question and the answer is ever changing. Right now, I think being an artist is a responsibility, a responsibility that requires one to be in a perpetual state of listening and reacting in order to better the condition of humanity.
Being a student at UCT can be very challenging with protest action, exams in tents etc. How have you coped so far?
I coped as best as I can considering we’ve been protesting for years now, so I always come with new coping mechanisms for myself. This year, I tried to be as functional as I could be with what I know I am good at. As a postgraduate student, I did not have to write exams but I knew that the undergraduates had to and with teaching being suspended, I tried to make sure undergraduates, particularly first years, were not in a disadvantaged position with their practical skills – so I just applied what I knew in a time of uncertainty by volunteering to teach some classes.

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A scene from the play.

How can we use art as a means to demonstrate a purpose or give out a message?
Art is a frustrating thing to define because it can be meaningless and it can also mean everything. That is just how it is. In terms of art demonstrating purpose, that is dependent on the maker and the receiver of the work – once it’s out of the artist’s hands – it belongs to those who see it and then embed a message to it and in that being the case, art must then always be authentic in order to be utilized properly.
What is your aim with a degree in Film and Drama?
My aim is storytelling to its optimum level. Stories know how they want to be told and so they cannot be limited to just a page, a stage or a camera lens. So I want to be able to navigate stories through a film lens or on a stage and then sometimes through both if that is what the story demands.
With your play “A Tragic Conversation on the Persistence of Sainthood” shown at New Voices Festival, what was the play about? What message was it giving out & how did the audience respond?
Sainthood is a play about that looks at the toxic side of masculine culture in adolescence. The play deals with matters of race, sexuality and brotherhood in an environment that is considered desirable (the private school system) and in that being the case, we created be play to show that in such an important stage of life, we must interrogate what is hurting our boys. The play is deceiving in that it’s cute, it’s funny, it’s raunchy all the while being aggressive and violent, so the audience received it well – some clapped, some cried but most wanted more.
So I intend on doing so.
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“A Tragic Conversation on the Persistence of Sainthood”

Theatre and Film are often terms mixed up by many. How would you differentiate them?
Theatre is live performance and Film is a captured performance.
Both are curated and received in different ways – in theatre there is no take two, no editing, the audience can smell the actor’s perfume and taste their sweat, the lighting guy manipulates what he can then and there, props are broken in front of your eyes. As a theatre maker you create a story within a fixed, non-moving space for a living breathing audience, whereas film is curated with no limits, you can have a hundred locations, a thousand takes, you can make a million mistakes, you can choose which version of the story the audience sees, you can re-watch it, pause it, reflect on it and rewind it to your heart’s content. You cannot do that in theatre and that is the difference, yet I find both equally compelling.
How is it like going from studying film to doing theatrical performances?
Honestly speaking, it’s a daunting challenge but a challenge accepted. They are so different in terms of technique, so I was out of my depth for little bit but then I realised that there is a fine line between the two – they speak to each other in so many ways yet because of technicalities – film and theatre just don’t seem to want to – so I personally use stage sensibilities when filming (it’s particularly helpful to have theatre technicalities in film when working with limited budget and characters) and filming sensibilities in making theatre (the endless possibilities of film allow for a vast expanding how to aesthetically expand a theatrical world – example ‘How do I make Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory on stage? I look to film aesthetics in re- creating it on stage)
Who has been your inspiration so far?
I love particular works from people like Kanye West, Lars von Trier, Xavier Dolan, Melina Matsoukas, Pedro Almodovar, Barry Jenkins, Quentin Tarantino, Scott Barley and every director of Black Mirror, Big Little Lies and House of Cards episodes.
What can we be expecting from you in the coming months?
I’ll be working on finishing the ‘Sainthood’ conceptual short film called ‘ A Gaggle of Saints’, I’m working on finishing a new script called ‘Teal’ and preparing to dance for a Festival in July!
Thank you for taking the time. Where do you see yourself in the coming years?
I see myself creating provocative work, collaborating with interesting artists and eventually creating a space to house and create interesting work for a collective/a roster of directors, writers, cinematographers and performers.
It’s been fun answering these questions, TV Series Hub!