What: MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA! Written by Athol Fugard, Directed by Melanie Dreyer
When: February 16-18; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2:00pm
Where: Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 W. MLK Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
Civic Ensemble will remount their production of MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA!, Athol Fugard’s gripping, eloquent drama about teaching and learning within segregated South Africa for four performances at the Kitchen Theatre Company February 16-18.
Beloved teacher Mr. M prepares Thami Mbikwana, a black boy, and Isabel Dyson, a white girl, to compete together in an academic competition. But right outside the window, the anti-apartheid movement starts to transform their country. These three soon find that their classroom is not immune from the conflict which accompanies overturning the old order. Thami and Isabel’s educations are inexorably intertwined with the nation’s politics. Mr. M attempts to persuade his students that education, not violence, is the answer to South Africa's problems, but as the competition draws nearer, it becomes clear that the nation’s future depends entirely on how the younger generation chooses to act.
“Although written almost 30 years ago, the story still vibrates with meaning. The cast is exceptional, the message is strong, the audience feels the power. This particular production has managed to capture the magic of what theater does best,” Director Melanie Dreyer said.
Performances will be held in the Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 MLK Street, Ithaca NY 14850. Showtime is 7:30 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2pm on Saturday. Tickets are available for $25 online at http://bit.ly/2iUEVoM or by calling the Kitchen Theatre Company box office at 607-273-0403. In keeping with Civic Ensemble’s mission that theatre be accessible for all, there are lower cost tickets available by emailing Director of Civic Engagement, Sarah K. Chalmers, at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 607-241-0195.
In a 2011 New York Times interview, Fugard recalled: “That play came out of the darkest period of apartheid years, a period when my faith in writing as a response to the situation was really being challenged. Do you use bombs or bullets, or do you use words when you are living with the most appalling brutality and violence against the majority of the people?”
“We are at a time in U.S. history like no other. Like South Africa during Apartheid, we are in crisis. This play is about a turning point in South African history -- a time when one had to consider how best to combat hate and restore freedom. Could there be a more important time for us consider this dilemma?” asks Melanie Dreyer. “We now live on two ideological islands that continue to slide further and further apart. The ability to even listen to someone whose viewpoint differs from our own has become a great struggle. Is education really a just a toy sword or does it hold the key to changing an impossible situation into one of hope?”
Jelani Pitcher and Brianna Ford will reunite with Civic Ensemble Artistic Director Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. to bring this story to life once again in February. Pitcher, of Baton Rouge, La., and Ford, of Seattle and New York City, with family living in Ithaca, now both Chicago-based actors, along with Simmons right off a run directing in Cincinnati, Oh. and Dreyer, former Producing Director of Civic Ensemble and currently teaching at the Missouri State University, will bring a nation’s worth of experience and artistry to remind us of the importance of Fugard’s words, especially in light of the new president-elect and the difficult political context.
Directed by Dreyer, the production features 2016 Ithaca College graduates Pitcher and Ford as Thami and Isabel and Cornell University faculty Simmons as Anela Myalatya (“Mr. M”). The artisans behind the scenes of the first production, including several CU and IC faculty and alumni, will all return: set design by Norm Johnson, costume and prop design by Liz Kitney, lighting design by E.D. Intemann and Laura Dera, and sound design by Rudy Gerson; with dramaturgy done by Caitlin Kane and photography by Danielle Stoffregen. Angela Griggs is the stage manager.
The original production was funded by Civic Ensemble season sponsor William Martin and a grant from the Park Foundation, along with the support of co-sponsors Kitchen Theatre Company and Lehman Alternative community School. This production is part of the Kitchen Sink Series.
Civic Ensemble is a non-profit theatre company serving Ithaca and Tompkins County that produces new plays by or about women and people of color, re-imaginings of classics, and community-based plays that explore and explode the social, political, and cultural issues of our time. Through the production of plays, after-school and in-school education programs for young people, and civic engagement programs with Ithaca community members, the company works to bring audiences of different races, classes, and experiences together in a public forum on the American experiment.