As it became more and more difficult to produce theatre, director/playwright Josias Dos Moleele decided to combine all his passions. He speaks to DIANE DE BEER about his latest production Jobe, which plays at Sandton’s Theatre on the Square from May 29 until June 15:
Josias Moleele looked around at the theatre landscape he believed was diminishing, and decided he would take theatre and the church and bring the two together.
As the son of a pastor, when he was younger, there were expectations for him to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he had different plans. He wanted a career on the stage, whether it was performing in a production like Five Guys Named Mo or writing and directing his most popular play Call Me Crazy (which will have yet another run at Sandton’s Auto & General Theatre on the Square later this year), or my personal favourite, Sarafina in Black and White which he did a few years back with the TUT students.
And to this day, he still lectures at both TUT and the University of Pretoria’s drama departments.
But writing and staging his own productions is his calling and when he thought about the tradition in local churches to dramatize stories from the bible, he knew this was where he wanted to go.
He knew that there were more than enough ministries in Gauteng, that he would be able to put together professional productions and that he would have an inbuilt audience. His model was a simple one. While he would be doing training for free, people would have to pay for the production, which included the actors and everyone who worked on it.
Once his ideas were aired, a young aspirant playwright came to him with the story of Job which he knew would be inspiring. He knew there was something there and together he and Teboho Sengoai started reworking the original text to take it to a different level.
Once they had played it at different ministries, Moleele wanted to test the professional stage and they did a run at the Joburg Theatre in 2017. “There’s a new audience emerging,” he says as he explains that churchgoers enjoy seeing a familiar story reinterpreted in a modern setting. And this is when he decided to contact Daphne Kuhn at Sandton’s Auto & General Theatre on the Square for a season with the hope of testing his theories positively.
Jobe is the story of a man who goes through adversity and pain, and longs for an explanation and counsel as to why his world has been turned upside down. Why do bad things happen to good people? When life is going smoothly, faith is easy. The test of faith always comes when life stops making sense.
According to the biblical tale, counsel is revealed in a dramatic life changing dream and vision that hits his beliefs to the core and those of his friends and his wife.
“It’s a universal story set in a modern time,” says Moleele.
What interests him is also the mixed audience that will hopefully see the play. In his diverse working life, he has produced documentaries for a Jewish audience, and with Jobe based on an old testament story, he believes that in discussion sessions following the performances, interesting conversations could emerge.
It’s the different congregations present at the theatre that Moleele finds intriguing and hopes will instigate probing conversations.
“I feel theatre isn’t speaking boldly at the moment and because I kept on facing rejection, I had to redirect my own intentions and passions.”
He was determined to do it professionally with a cast that includes the following:
Muzi Mthabela (Jobe) who aside from his role on Isibaya, is a regular on TV including Jacob’s Cross, Dream World, The Road and more. Mogau Motlhatswi (Princess, Jobe’s wife)
is best known for her role as Mapitsi in Skeem Saam. This is her debut stage role.
Titus Mekgwe (Lebese Titus) started his career professionally in 2010 and is both actor and director. He has also worked on film. Simpho Mathenjwa (Jwara) has a BA deg in the arts (Wits) and has done mainly industrial theatre and television while Teboho Sengoai (Professor) who wrote the initial play which he reworked with Moleele, completes the cast.
Following his work with the different ministries, Moleele has also established his own ministry in Atteridgeville Faith Acts Ministries (FAM where he hopes to do things a little differently with all the focus on the congregation. His work around theatre will continue as he keeps training actors through his Graduate Arts Project (GAP) as a feeder programmed to community theatre groups. and everyone involved with the production from the different congregations he works with.
He wants to keep it as professional as possible and has joined a Chamber of Business to help guide him in this world.
Having found a way to feed his different passions, Moleele is determined to navigate his way through all the teething problems. Like many others before him (and many to come), his choice of career(s) is more of a calling which makes it tough to turn his back on any of this.
He knows he is probably a trailblazer but with so many disruptors in this time, it is those who can be innovative who will find new ways to follow their dreams.
In the meantime, this novice preacher is determined to keep telling stories and to find different ways of finding a captive audience. He wants to keep it exciting and with our diverse audiences, reverting to age-old stories familiar to many in different guises, he hopes to get the conversations up and running.