Mphepo brothers go down memory lane

HARARE - No account of Zimbabwe’s theatre industry would be complete without mentioning the role played by brothers Jasen and Nash Mphepo.

The two brothers, who both claimed to have been forced into the theatre industry by circumstances, are considered to be among the country’s elite actors and producers.

Jasen, who is the elder brother, told the Daily News that he became a full time actor because his mother could not afford to send him to law school.

“I had just finished writing my ‘O’ Level examinations when I decided to join a drama group called Together as One. I tried out for a part and they were impressed. So when I
proceeded to ‘A’ Level, I continued acting. After failing to make it to university I decided to do full time acting,” said Jasen.

Nash also has a similar story to tell.

“I started in 1995 and I was inspired by my brother Jasen. Growing up I never thought I would be an actor. I loved animals so I wanted to be a veterinary doctor but my family’s
economic circumstances made it impossible,” he said

After learning the intricacies of theatre as a member of Together as One from 1994 to 1996, Jasen formed his own theatre organisation called Singers Actors Dancers Amalgamated
(Sada).

“After forming Sada, I recruited my young brother Nash. We started performing in schools and we were commissioned by the ministry of Education as well as the ministry of Health,”
said Jasen. But Sada only lasted two years.

“We disbanded the group in 1998 following the flopping of a Malawi tour. In 1999, I joined Savannah Arts Trust and we again embarked on theatre in education,” he said.

“In Savannah, I worked with several renowned actors who included O’Brien Mudyiwenayama, Eunice Tava, Charles Mataure and others. We did plays around the country. In 2001, I left
Savannah to resurrect Sada. It was then that we decided to hold Shona plays from ‘O’ level set books.”

Jasen told the Daily News that his mother was disappointed by their choice of careers in acting.

“When I started acting, my mother was not impressed; she expected me to choose another career. My father had two wives and had divorced my mother so she thought I should do
something else, not acting, but she could not afford to send me to university which was what she really wanted.

“I remember at one point her brother, my uncle, got me a job at Johnson and Fletcher on the night shift, I quit after just one night,” he recalled.

Though Jasen does not regret being an actor, he concedes that the career is not well-paying, at least in Zimbabwe.

“Most creatives live from hand to mouth. But as I am director of an organisation as well as an actor, I lead a decent life. I have managed to even start a family; I have two
children and a wife,” said the elder Mphepo.

“My profession has its problems; firstly, people look at us as promiscuous people. I know that many people have problems with their partners especially when it comes to tours as
well as working late.

“The community also has its perceptions, when you befriend a member of the opposite sex in your profession they think something sinister is going on.”

As an actor Jasen took part in such plays as Waiters, An African Called Cinema, Face to Face, Big House, Small House, The Team and others.

In his role as a producer, Jasen was involved in plays such as Pfuma, Paradzai, Mudiwa, Suburb D, Ghetto Fellas, New Dawn, Decorder, Prison XYZ, Super Patriots and Morrons, Robinson
Crusoe
and others.

Nash also narrated the negative impact of his career on his family.

“Being an actor is hard on my family as well. They don’t like it when people call me by my stage names. But now my first born child understands especially with the several awards I
have won. He even at times says that when he grows up he wants to be an actor,” said Nash.

Nash won the Ecrans Noirs Festival Best Male Actor for 2014 for the film Dust and Fortunes.

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