The idea that theatre can heal and nurture is the driving force in the work of Lebogang Mogashoa.
Mogashoa (32) is the brains behind The Storytellers Series at PopArt Theatre in downtown Johannesburg. The sessions see the participants share personal stories about the big or small events in their lives that have had a profound effect on how they live now; about love, break-ups, their dreams and struggles, sexual experiences and family dynamics. Mogashoa also runs corporate workshops that provide a space for people to open up and work through the experiences that have shaped them. Mogashoa ventured into this field by way of South Korea, where he went to teach English and stayed as a key player in the expats theatre scene.
He initially studied film and media at the University of Cape Town, and after a year as a researcher/writer on TV’s Top Billing he went to Korea as a teacher. There he started reading his personal stories at open mic and talent shows. Listening to radio shows such as The Moth and This American Life and storytelling podcasts such as Risk gave him the confidence to launch his own show When We Were Nearly Young in a bar in Seoul. It quickly became a popular expat event and expanded to feature other expat performers too. Lebogang workshopped their stories with them to help shape them for the stage.
On his return to South Africa in 2013 he performed his show at PopArt and Cape Town’s Alexander Upstairs Theatre and developed another solo show The Real Dirt, which received positive reviews. This is humorous, confessional storytelling and an exploration of young, black queer identity through stories that veer between funny, alarming and poignant. It resonates with the experiences of all South Africans, leaving many in the audience in tears, he says.
This use of theatre as a form of catharsis led to the Storytellers Series workshops to help people structure tales around true events in their own lives and perform them at the events. “Each event is uniquely powerful in that it allows people who have never told their story before to do so in front of a supportive audience,” he says.
His goal is to spread this kind of storytelling to show people that their experiences are valid, powerful and entertaining enough to be shared and elevated.
Mogashoa is also a screenwriter on Mzanzi Magic’s telenovela The Queen.
— Lesley Stones