Jason Corder speaks of infusing flavor in Kenyan theatres - Evewoman

Main man: Jason Corder: Infusing foreign flavor in Kenyan theatres


Many people have seen you on some local productions and the latest is KTN’s Stay. Who is Jason Corder?

I’m a lover, not a fighter.  I’m a Don Quixote on a bench in Jevanjee Gardens.  I’m the kind of guy who loves helping lost tourists.  I’m an extremely old and wisened man and I hope I’m winning. 

What brought you to Kenya and when was that?

Good fortune. Anyway, I came to Kenya in 2008 to teach Art at the University of Nairobi. From there, I met one Keith Pearson who helped me get into the local theatre industry. He actually helped me get my first role on Changes. Then Lenny Juma got me my other roles. I’ve been here for six years, and I’m planning to ‘stay’. Forever.

Tell us a little about your background

I grew up in an idyllic place north of San Francisco (California) called Marin County. It has a striking mountain and straddling a cold and turbulent ocean. The place became synonymous with peace, love and counter-culture, the birthplace of the ‘hippies’. So I learned a deep sense of tolerance, an appreciation of the potential of the human spirit and a love for all things natural and ‘organic’.

Let’s talk about Stay….You and Mkamzee (your co-star) make an interesting couple. Are you an item?

Thank you.  My character, Shane, is a riot to play.  An item?  I guess our viewers will just have to keep on guessing….

Tell us alittle about Stay?

It is my first local production. I approached Damaris Irungu-Ochieng’ to help with some of the scripts.  I enjoyed having her Kenyan female perspective contrast with mine.  I am, however, writing all of Season 2 myself.

Your background is in music and art, way before you came to Kenya. Did you just bump into the acting industry?

Yes I did, in a way.  I did a lot of acting and performing in school and college but I had never done it professionally before I came here, though it had always been at the back of my mind.  But in Kenya, I was lucky enough to be recommended for a role and fell into what I find to be the most enjoyable profession.

The role you are talking about, is it the one in Mali?

No, it was for a small role on Changes.  Then came Rugged Priest,  then Mali.

How did you transform yourself into an actor, director and scriptwriter for Stay?

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Well, the direction was actually done by Ash Jive and Claire Ash Meadow.  But for the other roles I took on — producer, scriptwriter and lead actor — I had to do a serious amount of quick learning and trial by error, much to the chagrin of the people around me, I’m sure. 

But lucky for me, I always seem to perform better the more responsibilities I have. The greater challenge in a creative work, the better become. 

You are also a musician. What’s your genre and how have Kenyans received your music?

No genre probably works perfectly, but let’s say Alternative Pop or Afro-fusion or just Alternative. The response has been positive from the people who’ve have heard it.  Most people haven’t heard it yet. But most of the songs that play in Stay are mine.

Do you write your own music too?

Yes, I do.  Besides writing pop songs, I compose music for film and I have worked already with Wanuri Kahiu and Judy Kibinge on different projects as well as writing the cinematic pieces for Stay.

Have you done any collaboration with a Kenyan artiste?

Yes, years ago I worked with MC Kah and did  I Could Be Something, which is on iTunes.  I’m collaborating with Kanja on two songs. One is the theme song of Stay, which will be getting a proper release this year along with a video from my team.  The other is a tune called In God We Sing, which is the deepest track I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. 

Do you have any family?

Yes, I’m incredibly lucky to have two beautiful and amazing boys aged 15 and 12 years.

How is it like being a father? Do you live with your kids in Kenya?

It is fun being a dad. Yes I live with my kids here and they bring me the greatest pleasure in life. I love being a father.  I highly recommend it. Guys, go out and make some babies.

What do you love most about being in Kenya?

It might sound banal but Nairobi has the best weather of any city I’ve ever experienced.  I find the country to be stunningly beautiful.

Are you dating?

Being old and weathered means not many women are drawn into my sphere.  As for the few that have tolerated my presence, I have found them to be strong, easy-going, smart and full of life.  It’s actually fascinating the general differences between white and black women, which is a topic that could take pages to discuss. But it’s something that interests me and that we explore in Stay.

On an easy weekend, what do you do with yourself?

I play tennis with my ‘tennis friend and foe’ in the midday sun, taking out our stress on each other.  I do some hot-room yoga and play frisbee-golf in Karura Forest.


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