Friday, November 2, 2007

The theatre makes you think

Last night my friend R and I went to see the Studio Theatre's production of My Children! My Africa! by playwright Athol Fugard . The story is set in South Africa during apartheid, and accounts the unlikely friendship of two students--one black, one white. Make that a black male and a white female. You see why their friendship was unlikely. Thami and Isabel are from different sides of town, different parts of their segregated town that is, and at 18 begin to see their similarities more so than what makes them so different. The other character in the play is Thami's teacher Mr. M. (Mr. Myalatya), a passionate and dedicated educator who brings them all together through debate and then enters them as a team into a literature competition. But as the world is changing right outside the classroom, in the streets of "the location," so too does the trio's relationship.

The script is lyrical and meaningful. All three of the actors were superb. It was funny and sad and maddening and thought-provoking. So, a good night at the theatre, and if you have the opportunity you should certainly catch a performance of this play. But...It made me realize how little I know of what happened in South Africa during apartheid, and what still goes on there today. It's not like it was some long ago period in history--I was an adult by the time apartheid officially ended. I don't ever remember hearing of it in school, WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING. I don't even remember much mention of it in college, despite the fact that I spent a lot of time focused on social justice issues. I'll leave the failings of the US public school system for another time, but this is my failing. My lack of attention to what was happening in South Africa during apartheid--and its residual effects--is embarrassing and inexcusable. Sure I remember when Mandela was released, but beyond what made the US mainstream media, what did I know? Nothing. And I still don't. I have much catching up to do.

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