Athol Fugard

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Plays by Athol Fugard

audio Master Harold and the Boys

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Academy-Award winner Athol Fugard, one of theatre's most acclaimed playwrights, finds humor and heartbreak in the friendship of Harold, a 17-year old white boy in 1950's South Africa, and the two middle aged black servants who raised him. Racism unexpectedly shatters Harold's childhood and friendships in this absorbing, affecting coming of age play.

The play, initially banned from production in South Africa, is a Drama Desk Award winner for Outstanding New Play.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Leon Addison Brown, Keith David and Bobby Steggert.

Featuring: Leon Addison Brown, Keith David, Bobby Steggert

audio Playland

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Set in a South African traveling amusement park on New Year’s Eve, Athol Fugard’s “Playland” explores the possibilities for blacks and whites to find understanding in a racially divided world. A volatile dialogue begins when two men - a former soldier and a night watchman - delve into their sordid pasts.

A Steppenwolf Theatre Company production.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast recording starring Lou Ferguson, Francis Guinan, and Paul Sandberg.

Directed by Nan Withers-Wilson. Recorded before a live audience by L.A. Theatre Works.

Featuring: Lou Ferguson, Francis Guinan, Paul Sandberg

audio The Road to Mecca

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

When her husband dies, aging Miss Helen begins to fill her home in the remote South African bush with strange sculptures made from beer cans and old headlights. A local clergyman and a young woman visitor try to decide whether Miss Helens peculiar art is an outpouring of creativity or an outbreak of madness. An incandescent drama by South Africa’s most celebrated playwright.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Julie Harris, Amy Irving and Harris Yulin.

Featuring: Julie Harris, Amy Irving, Harris Yulin

Athol Fugard (b. 1932) is South Africa’s foremost playwright. The product of an Afrikaner mother and Anglo-Irish father, Fugard has always been especially conscious of his mixed linguistic heritage; his plays, written in a demotic form of South African English, naturally incorporate many regional dialects and slang derived from various vernacular registers. Following university, his real education began when – like Eugene O’Neill – he knocked about the world as a seaman for several years. As clerk to a Native Commissioner’s Court in Johannesburg in 1958, he saw at first hand the daily regimen of apartheid. Becoming a stage manager with the National Theatre Organization (Kamertoneel) in 1959, Fugard worked, part-time, as actor and director, while writing his earliest plays about life in Sophiatown, then Johannesburg’s black ghetto. No-Good Friday (1958) and Nongogo (1959) are immature but realistic studies of slum deprivation and violence. It was not until Fugard returned to Port Elizabeth, where he had been brought up, that his playwriting began to take on a life of its own. The breakthrough was The Blood Knot, set in Port Elizabeth, but first staged in Johannesburg (1961). Though unwieldy and overwritten, it was the play South African theatre needed in the early 1960s. The love-hate relationship of two brothers (one who could pass for a white man, the other very dark) mirrors much of the country’s anguished racial history. Establishing Fugard as a playwright, it set a pattern for his future dramas, using small casts and one simple set with minimal action but one or two powerful stage images and opportunities for acting out intense racial confrontations. Hello and Goodbye (1965) and Boesman and Lena (1969; filmed 1973) were written for the Serpent Players, an ensemble of black actors founded by Fugard in 1962. Like The Blood Knot, both embody tragic family situations. In 1967, influenced by the avant-garde director Jerzy Grotowski, Fugard and the Serpent Plays began to experiment with improvisational theatre. Fugard provided basic images and situations and directed the process by which John Kani and Winston Ntshoni improvised the dialogue; the texture and force of Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973) emerged from the inner experiences of the actors, who are credited as co-authors in the published texts. The absurdities and cruelties of South Africa’s pass laws and of political imprisonment on Robben Island are, respectively, the plays’ subject matter. Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act (1972) completes this workshop phase of Fugard’s development. Fugard has spoken of his next three plays as a trilogy, though not consciously planned as such. A Lesson from Aloes (1978), ‘Master Harold’ . . . and the Boys (1982), his most autobiographical play, and The Road to Mecca (1984) are more private and inward-looking, less obviously political and far more concerned with the white man’s social responsibilities and conscience than any of the earlier works. After the unconvincing A Place with the Pigs (Yale Repertory Theatre, 1987; London’s National Theatre, 1988) My Children! My Africa! directly confronted hatred and violence within the black community and answered criticism that this phase of his stage work had turned its back on immediate social and racial problems. In the 1990s Fugard produced three dissimilar dramas that recall earlier stages in his career while, at the same time, they show an awareness of his country’s post-apartheid dispensation. First produced in 1993 at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Playland is in some ways a companion piece to The Blood Knot. Both are two-handers, where one character is black and the other is white (or appears to be white); but whereas The Blood Knot prophetically enacted apartheid’s evils, Playland depicts the difficulties of reconciliation in the regime’s aftermath. My Life, premiered to critical acclaim at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in 1994, has, unusually for Fugard, an all-female ensemble, with him arranging material but (unlike his practice in the earlier improvisational collaboration with two male actors) severely restricting his own authorial contribution. Valley Song (Johannesburg and Princeton, NJ, 1995) tenderly dramatizes the increasingly troubled relationship between a simple, inadvertently selfish old widower and his naive, fun-loving granddaughter, who wants to leave their desolate Karoo farm for the big city. Throughout a long career, Fugard’s most significant contribution to South African theatre has been his involvement at all levels with black theatre practitioners. The strength of his work lies in its enactment - often in racial role-playing - of apartheid situations seen from the victim’s point of view. First and foremost a man of the theatre, Fugard has also assayed other literary forms; he has published a novel, Tsotsi (1980), a volume of selections from his remarkable diary, published as Notebooks: 1960–1977 (1983), and Cousins: A Memoir (1997). from Ronald Ayling, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).