South Africa stories

November 23, 2006|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,Sun reporter

When Jenny Tibbels visited South Africa in 1998, she became enchanted with the local theater scene and its potential "for revitalizing society post-apartheid," she says.

So Tibbels, who recently became artistic director of Baltimore's Run of the Mill Theater, jumped at the chance to mount a South African Play Festival.

"During a time when civil liberties have been threatened and derailed, it's really important to look at the ways the state can interfere with citizens' privacy," she says.

The festival, which runs through Dec. 31 at Theatre Project, consists of two fully staged productions of works by prominent South African playwright Athol Fugard, workshops, a panel discussion and staged readings of dramas by five up-and-coming South African authors.

The two mainstage productions will be Sizwe Banzi is Dead (co-written by Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona) and Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act. Both plays shine a spotlight on draconian South African laws in the mid-20th century.

Sizwe Banzi, first produced in 1972, deals with a provision requiring black and mixed-race adults over the age of 16 to carry an "identity book" that restricted their ability to travel and find jobs. Statements is Fugard's response to the sensational 1974 arrest of an interracial couple who were prosecuted for having an affair.

In addition, Lesole's Dance Project, which specializes in traditional South African dance forms, will perform for the public and provide a series of workshops at Theatre Project.

The troupe is known for its gumboot dancing, which originated as a way for workers in the gold mines to communicate with one another. Not only were the workers shackled to their stations, but they were also forbidden to speak to one another. The laborers devised an intricate code consisting of stamps, slaps to the sides of their boots, and the rattling of their chains to send messages to one another.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

The festival will run Tuesdays-Sundays at Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., through Dec. 31. Tickets cost $16 for the general public, and $11 for students, senior citizens and Theatre Project subscribers. A festival pass, which provides admission to all events, costs $52. For details, call the box office at 410-752-8558 or go to theatreproject.org.

Events

Sizwe Bansi is Dead:

8 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 and 31; and 3 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 24.

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act:

8 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16; and 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17.

Staged readings:

8 p.m. Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27.

Lesole's Dance Project:

Performance at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and workshops at 1 p.m. Dec. 2, noon Dec. 9 and noon and 1 p.m. Dec. 30.

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