Interview with Phillip Dikotla
Johannesburg, South Africa
Can you tell me a story from your childhood that influenced the person and/or playwright you are today?I don’t really like talking about this but otherwise, I grew up in a poor family of four siblings and a single parent whom I love wholeheartedly (My Mother). Being the last born in the family, I didn’t know my father, he died the same year I was born, in 1990. We didn’t have a TV, just a radio and our voices which always told beautiful stories, about people I didn’t know, like my father, my grandfather and many other people, whom I had to imagine as their stories were being told. It was an automatic thing that I think helped me a lot with being able to imagine as I do today, when telling stories, as a comedian, and an actor. It helps me.
So with me being the last born in my family, I took upon myself one responsibility, which was to change the my family's situation, to make things better for myself, my family, and later my country, and hopefully the world. But even so, I later learned that I can’t change the world. I can only make a contribution, which I try to do with each and every story I tell. When I feel like my voice is not clear enough in a story, that the story has no reason to be told, I stop. I think that too influenced the kinds of stories I tell, and the comedy I do. Which is just being myself, and playing my role in society. Putting in my contribution. In honestly telling my stories, I believe, people see themselves, because we are not as unique as we think we are. So as hard as it is, I always try to reveal and give all of myself.
There is a lot that I still have to say and learn. Hopefully some other time.
If you could have a drink with any dramatist (living or dead) who would it be and why?
It wouldn’t be a dramatist, it would be my father. It would be nice just to talk to him. I feel like not knowing him has pushed me to gain a lot in my life. So it would be a pleasurable experience.
Why is theater important to you?
It heals me, it challenges my perspectives, and it makes me happy.
What advice do you have for new playwrights?
Write about things that you know the best. Write about things that speak to you. Anyway that also depends on what type of plays you want to do. What brought us here is not the same. So always remember what made you want to be part of this field/industry. Even though it might have changed as you grow and get wiser.
Phillip M. Dikotla is 24-year-old South African playwright, actor, and comedian. He is an Arts and Culture Trust Impact Award recipient for theatre 2012. He is part and cast of the Naledi Award winning production Sekwatlapa (2010), writer of the Zabalaza Festival Best production Skierlik (Standard Bank Ovation Award recipient 2013), and Nominee for best actor at the Zabalaza Festival 2013. He has worked with a variety of directors, and performed in different productions such as: Skierlik, Vuka Matchelle, Reconciliation, Matters of the heart, Dr Roto, Ordinary, Ngwanaka, Monnamolora, invasion 2.0, and Narrative Dreams, just to mention a few. As a writer he has written, Skierlik, Ordinary, Trekker (the story of Dimitri Tshafendas), Gae, The fatherland, David II, Buru (co-written), and currently working on his new play titled khukhu. As a comedian he continues to perform around South Africa.