Donald Molosi ’09 is a busy man. When I talked with him last Sunday, he was in New York rehearsing for his off-Broadway debut with his new solo piece, Today It’s Me. Before graduating from the College with a double major in political science and theater, Molosi had a rather successful acting career as a child in his homeland Botswana, appearing on TV and radio programs from a young age and touring the country with a theater group.
After finishing high school in Botswana, Molosi decided to seek higher education in the United States. He began working towards his goal by attending a high school in Connecticut for a year before starting college. “It’s not a common thing for actors,” Molosi said. “Once people are already in the field, they don’t usually go back to school. I’m unusual in that I went to school abroad at the top of my career because [it involved] leaving the country and the industry.”
Why, then, was he so compelled to receive his education in the States when he had already enjoyed success in the acting industry back home? “There were other ways in which I wanted to get challenged besides acting,” he said. “I wanted to acquire intelligence besides theater, to learn outside of the field. I wanted to become more well-informed … not just doing art from an artist’s perspective, but also from a person who knows other things … to bring about different nuance and texture.”
Molosi decided to major in political science because of his experience working on UNICEF TV programs for children in Botswana. “The TV work was political, entertaining kids but teaching them about their rights,” Molosi said. “It was advocacy and entertainment that spoke for people. In 2002, I was a part of the delegation to the UN summit on children’s rights … [where] I realized the function of art as an invitation to politics.” The two separate majors enabled Molosi to study his intertwining interests as distinct entities. “I learned politics not as a function of theater,” he said, “and I was able to experiment with a lot of theater forms, discovering what I liked and what I didn’t.”
During his junior year, Molosi studied abroad in two different countries, England and Morocco. In England, he enrolled for a semester at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) where he received conservatory-style training in acting. “At LAMDA, I just grew so much in whole as an actor and [learned to] instrument the body.” During his second semester abroad in Morocco, Molosi studied immigrant migration into and out of Morocco and examined whether Christian religious worship changed upon immigrating into a Muslim country. While final presentations for this study abroad program were typically presented in paper form, his creative passion allowed him to engage with this issue with an artistic slant instead. “After I had all the information, I used the words from the interviews to write songs. I recorded all the songs myself,” he said. “It was an outlet for me to … express the politics of migration in a creative way.”
At the College, Molosi also met Omar Sangare, assistant professor of theater. Sangare directed Molosi’s piece portraying Sir Seretese Khama, the first president of Botswana, in Dialogue One, an annual solo performance festival at the College. His experience with Dialogue One eventually led him to his upcoming performance in a new festival Sangare is directing. Titled United Solo, this upsized version of Dialogue One is now the world’s largest international solo performance festival. United Solo will run from Nov. 8 to 21 at Theatre Row in New York City, welcoming different solo performers for each show. Molosi will be performing his piece, Today It’s Me, on Nov. 20.
Molosi’s new piece is the product of his year travelling to Rwanda, Uganda, Brazil and France on the Class of 1945 Florence Chandler Fellowship. When asked about his goals, Molosi said, “I wanted to find out how an actor can violate the convention of western professional theater and still communicate.” Each of the countries he visited had unique styles of performance, ranging from therapeutic theater to plays conveying struggles of poverty and unemployment. Today It’s Me is Molosi’s portrayal of Philly Lutaaya, a Ugandan Afrocentric musician who shifted his career to musical activism after he contracted AIDS. Molosi wrote, directed and will perform the piece alone. “It challenged me as a writer,” he said. “This is the best writing I have produced for theater to date.”
When asked about his core values as an actor, Molosi paused to contemplate. “It comes down to putting something new on the table … and storytelling in the way that’s accessible,” he said eventually. “A story about a Ugandan musician [can be told] in a way that the essence still comes through.” Perhaps because of his experiences from living and performing in so many cultures, he believes that the power of stories can take the audience across boundaries: “Stories can cross the lines of culture and languages. Once you get to the core of the stories, there is humanity and the lines don’t matter anymore.”