In honor of 79-year-old Tony Award®-winning South African playwright and novelist and tireless anti-apartheid campaigner Athol Fugard’s upcoming March 19-23 visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance and The Sacrificial Poets will present Acts of Witness, which includes two plays – Fugard’s early drama Blood Knot (1961) and Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, created in 2011 by Kane Smego, Will McInerney, Mohammad Moussa, and Sameer Abdel-khalek – performed in rotating repertory March 2-11 and 19 and 20 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC.
According to the StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance:
“Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot is the story of two South African brothers whose lives are twisted by the madness of apartheid. The New York Times calls the play ‘a contemporary classic … both a deeply human experience and a symbolic statement.’ The powerful allegorical story continues to resonate deeply in a world still unable to deal openly with issues of race and wracked by seismic shifts in response to social injustice from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street.
“The [Blood Knot] cast features J. Alphonse Nicholson, highly praised for his recent performance in Mike Wiley’s The Parchman Hour at PlayMakers Repertory Company, and Lucius Robinson, whose work locally has ranged from his adaptation of Vertigo, in which he played the Jimmy Stewart role to memorable performances on area stages from Manbites Dog to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre, as the two brothers. Joseph Megel directs.
“Poetic Portraits of a Revolution is a poetry-driven, multimedia documentary theater piece about the tranformative events in the Arab uprising. The project began when the Academy Award-winning organization the Empowerment Project sent nationally recognized spoken word poets Will McInerney and Kane Smego of The Sacrificial Poets, along with Mohammad Moussa and Sameer Abdel-khalek, to Egypt and Tunisia to collect documentary testimony in video, photographs, and poetry.
“Poetry and recordings from their journey have been featured in nationally-broadcast radio segments from American Public Media and National Public Radio. Their work was featured locally in the Process Series: New Works in Development, as they shaped a theater performance from their experiences, an event recognized by The Independent Weekly in Byron Woods’ wrap-up of the best Triangle theater of 2011. This production marks the premiere of this important new work.
“‘These vibrant young artists have brought back crucial testimony and I wanted to put that in conversation with Athol Fugard’s soul-searing work of protest,’ said Joseph Megel, director of the Process Series at UNC and co-artistic director of StreetSigns. ‘The news that Athol Fugard would be coming to our community, thanks to UNC’s Creative Writing Department and their invaluable Morgan Writer-in-Residence program, was galvanic for me. I was working at the time with Poetic Portraits of a Revolution in the Process Series and the two pieces seemed to be talking to each other across a great divide. I wanted to explore that. And I needed to honor Athol Fugard in a way that demonstrated our deep appreciation for his extraordinary body of work, his artistry, and his activism.’
“Multimedia designer Jared Mezzocchi helps to design an envelope for both shows that will integrate the documentary video component into the spoken word poetry of Poetic Portraits of a Revolution and works with set designer Joncie Sarratt to create a set that can serve and contextualize both productions.
“‘We wanted to be sure that we could experience Fugard’s classic cry against South African apartheid as something allegorical that applies equally here and now to any situation in which racism and social injustice place an untenable torque on the individual,’ said StreetSigns producer Elisabeth Lewis Corley. ‘As with Blood Knot, so also the Arab Spring. Not there and then. But here and now. We have racial and religious intolerance and major social and economic inequities to address in our own communities and in the direction of our nation. Designer Jared Mezzocchi and director Joseph Megel share an aesthetic and a commitment to the power of good storytelling. They place all the considerable tools and skills at their disposal in service of that.’ …
“Special Events: Audience talkbacks will follow the performances of Blood Knot on March 5th and 19th and Poetic Portraits on March 6th. A reception in honor of Athol Fugard, who will be in attendance, will follow the final performance on March 20th.
“About StreetSigns: StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance is an award-winning professional performing arts and educational center based in Chatham County, North Carolina. Founded in Chicago in 1992, StreetSigns has presented nearly 50 productions in its 20-year history. StreetSigns has worked in partnership with Northwestern University, the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Georgetown University, always dedicated to the development and presentation of new literary adaptations, company-created theatrical works, innovative new plays and bold re-imaginings of classics. StreetSigns is committed to celebrating the region’s rich oral and written traditions and to engaging cultural and political issues through the performance of literature. Learn more at http://www.streetsignscenter.org/.
“About The ArtsCenter: International theater at its most local, ArtsCenter Stage showcases the work of emerging and established artists hailing from next door to around the world. Featuring new works and re-inventions of the classics, ArtsCenter Stage is community-oriented, professional theatre with a commitment to developing new artists and audiences. Learn more at http://www.artscenterlive.org/.”
According to UNC News Services:
“Award-winning South African playwright Athol Fugard will visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill March 19-23 as the 2012 Morgan Writer-in-Residence.
‘Fugard, who also is a director, filmmaker, actor, and novelist, will give a talk, ‘Milestones of a Literary Journey,’ at 7:30 p.m. March 21st in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.
“The talk and staged readings of Fugard’s plays are free, but reservations are requested. Call the PlayMakers box office at 919-926-PLAY (7529) or visit http://www.playmakersrep.org/fugard to register.
“Related events at UNC include:
“March 19th, 6 p.m. A screening of the Oscar®-winning  film Tsotsi, adapted from Fugard’s novel. Varsity Theater on Franklin Street. FREE.
“March 21st, 2 p.m. ‘The Theater Today’ panel discussion, University Room, Hyde Hall. FREE.
“March 22nd, 5:30 p.m. Staged reading of Fugard’s My Children! My Africa! . Center for Dramatic Art. FREE, reservations requested.
“March 23rd, 5:30 p.m. Staged reading of Fugard’s The Train Driver (2010). FREE, reservations requested. Film and television actor Treat Williams, best known for his roles in Hair and D.B. Cooper, and his ‘Everwood‘ co-star John Beasley will read.
“Through April 1st: Exhibition of contemporary South African art, Ackland Art Museum, http://www.ackland.org/.
“In his plays, which include Blood Knot (1961) Master Harold … and the Boys (1982), and The Road to Mecca (1987), Fugard has depicted the lives of the disenfranchised, the overlooked and the voiceless. He has won the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards and a Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.
“Through early March, Fugard is directing Blood Knot in New York City, and The Road to Mecca also is enjoying a successful run there.
“Fugard’s visit is sponsored by the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program; the Departments of English and Comparative Literature, and Dramatic Art; and PlayMakers Repertory Company — all in the College of Arts and Sciences. Carolina alumni Allen and Musette Morgan of Memphis, TN, established the Morgan Program in 1993 to bring writers of distinction to UNC.
“While visiting UNC, Fugard will attend classes, interact with students, and participate in a variety of public events. For a complete schedule, visit http://fugard.web.unc.edu/.
SECOND OPINION: March 1st Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel previews by Walker Minot: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2012/03/actofwitness_0302 and Katelyn Trela: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2012/03/morgan_writer_in_residence_program_loses_funding; and March 1st Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamy: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/17706210/article-A-tale-of-two-brothers? (Note: You must register first to read this article).
StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance with The Sacrificial Poets present ACT OF WITNESS, with performances of Poetic Portraits of a Revolution at 8 p.m. March 2, 3, 6, and 8, 10 p.m. March 10, and 8 p.m. March 11; and performances of Blood Knot at 7:30 p.m. March 4 and 5, 8 p.m. March 9, 7 p.m. March 10, 3 p.m. March 11, and 7:30 p.m. March 19 and 20 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.
BOX OFFICE: 919/929-2787 or http://www.etix.com/.
Poetic Portraits of a Revolution: http://www.artscenterlive.org/story/poetic-portraits-revoluntion.
StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance: http://www.streetsignscenter.org/.
NOTE: There will be post performance talkbacks on Monday, March 5th, with WUNC producer Beverley Abel, musician Roger Lucey, writer and filmmaker Rhonda Klevansky, and UNC professor Eunice Sahle; on Tuesday, March 6th, with WUNC producer Beverley Abel, writer/documentarian Ali Neff, and Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Barbara Trent; and on Monday, March 19th, with WUNC producer Beverley Abel, Duke University professor Michael Valdez Moses, theater designer Kathy Anne Perkins, UNC professor Eunice Sahle, and African law and government scholar Bereket Selassie.
Poetic Portraits of a Revolution: http://www.ppr2011.org/ (official website).
Blood Knot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Knot (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Athol Fugard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athol_Fugard (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.