South African stories
African Theatre Ensemble (ATE) built its reputation on telling tales. That’s a good thing, because the tales come from various African countries; the company’s already introduced Canadian audiences to works by Nigerian and Ghanaian writers.Next ATE turns to South Africa to present the Canadian premiere of Have You Seen Zandile?, based on the girlhood memories of playwright Gcina Mhlophe. It follows the adventures of the title character, who’s living in the city with her grandmother; kidnapped and taken to the country, Zandile eventually goes in search of her grandmother.
“The work makes use of several African theatrical traditions,” says ATE’s artistic director, Modupe Olaogun, associate professor of African literature and drama at York University. “It blends storytelling and the praise tradition of South Africa’s Zulu and Sotho people. The latter, a poetic style, invokes the essence of people and objects by calling their names.
“It’s also an exceptional topic for the period it was written, the 60s, in that it doesn’t follow black characters who resist the white enemy. Apartheid is there as a background context, but Mhlophe’s play looks at the ordinary lives of black people; the characters deal with issues that everyone faces.”
Olaogun is also drawn to the piece because of its presentation of three generations of African women, characters who don’t share the same values.
“The playwright works against stereotypes in some ways, because it’s Zandile’s grandmother who is the urban and more progressive figure, while her mother lives in the country and has a more traditional view of women. What does it mean for a child like Zandile to be living with a much older woman who combines the roles of mother and grandmother?
“The investigation of emotional relationships is both touching and sophisticated.”
Directed by Bunmi Oyinsan, the play features Nigerian actor Joke Silva as Zandile’s mother as well as her grandmother, with Olivia Duodo as Zandile’s friend and d’bi young in the title role.To reach a wide Toronto audience, the production plays at three locations over the next 10 days.
Are you a young queer artist wanting to participate in Pride 2008?
Buddies in Bad Times is calling for those between 15 and 25 to take part in the PRIDECAB Project, a 12-week arts and history project that culminates in a collectively created ensemble performance on June 19. The production kicks off Buddies’ cultural festivities for 2008 Pride and is part of the company’s queer youth arts program.
No previous theatre experience is needed. Those chosen will participate in a series of workshops and interactive events with queer activists and artists, exploring Toronto’s queer culture and what it means to be young and queer today. Participants will use their research to devise the June show, drawing on theatre, music, dance and other performances forms.
For more information, contact Chy Spain or Evalyn Parry at youth@sexy. ca; application deadline is February 15. Meetings and rehearsals, on Monday and Wednesday evenings, begin in April.