For playwright and actor Tefo Paya, theatre is where he has found his purpose. With our blooming arts industry, it’s not often it produces quality plays that get international recognition, but with Morwa: The Rising Son, it was different. Recently, Paya performed the play at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and it won this year’s Standard Bank Ovation Award.
The play, directed by Warren Nebe with music by percussionist Volley Nchabeleng, chronicles the journey of the main character as he explores his masculine identity. Morwa, which means ‘son’, tackles the layered life experiences of a Tswana man, and touches on what society expects of a man and how this impacts on the character.
Speaking on his experience at the festival, Paya expressed; “I really enjoyed performing at such a big festival. Getting to see work by others and present my play was a great experience”. However, he noted; “I wish more Batswana could be here to present their work and watch performances as well.”
For the duration of the festival, Paya staged thirty shows. Quizzed on how maintained such high energy and consistence in delivery, Paya pointed to a strict rehearsals schedule. “During rehearsals, before we began the tour, we worked on ensuring the play is well structured and detailed. That way, the performance is always consistent,” explained the 30 year old performer.
On his big win, Paya said it felt great to be recognized, but he had to remain focused. “It was flattering to get the award and being recognized for the work that I do, but I still had more shows to do. After the good news, I moved on and focused on the next performance. As they say, you are only as good as your last performance.”
“The highlight of the festival for me was seeing people deeply moved by my work. I am blessed enough to do what I love,” enthused Paya. On the challenges he faced, Paya decried low turnout at the shows. “This year’s festival had low audience turnout, so shows had few people. However, I give my best on stage whether it’s for ten or a hundred people.”