Born in the RSA
Born In The RSA will bring to ACT one of South Africa’s most influential theatrical and political voices. Barney Simon, Artistic Director of the Market Theatre of Johannesburg and director of the hit Woza Albert/, returns to Seattle with a riveting work about life — both black and white — and the conflicting demands of loyalty in today’s South Africa.
According to Simon, Born In The RSA was initiated “in a period of paralyzing uncertainty around mid—’85...soon after the first state of emergency was declared” in the Republic of South Africa. In creating this extraordinary “living newspaper”, Simon and his multiracial company combined the techniques of journalism and theatre, drawing material from research and personal interviews. They have fashioned an incomparably powerful theatrical event where individuals take the stage to speak directly to the audience about the incendiary issues constantly threatening to engulf daily life in South Africa, effectively putting a human face on the tragedy of apartheid. At the heart of the play is a story of betrayal. Glen, a handsome but easily corruptible white university student, is gradually drawn into becoming a police informer. He deserts his pregnant wife and becomes embroiled in an affair with Susan, a white art teacher who is also a political activist. Glen has no qualms about using her as a pawn to infiltrate the ranks of the anti-apartheid movement, and as Susan falls in love with him, she unwittingly leads the police to Thinjiwe, a charismatic black trade unionist high on the government’s most wanted list.
After Susan and Thinjiwe are arrested, the play brilliantly illustrates how incidents can ripple outward, creating a web that ensnares people only peripherally involved in the transpiring events; it is suddenly a crime to know, or be related to, the wrong person. Susan’s friend Mia, a white lawyer/advocate for victims of wrongful arrest and brutality, puts herself at risk by becoming involved in their defense. Thinjiwe’s ten-year-old nephew is arrested on trumped up charges, tragically drawing her sister, Sindiswa, and boarder, Zack, into the police state’s machinations.
Undeniably powerful even if it were fabricated, the play’s impact is magnified by the fact that everything is based on actual people and events. The material is strengthened by the obvious commitment to deal with the issues in relation to blacks and whites, men and women, young and old. Perhaps most remarkable is the way the play refuses to paint its characters as heroes and villains, their actions as good or evil. These are flesh-and-blood characters, complex people dealing with complex issues. The play is not interested in providing easy answers but, rather, is intent on encouraging active discussion and debate.
ACT is proud to be presenting this especially timely theatrical event to Seattle audiences. Born In The RSA will be co-produced in association with the Northlight Theatre, the Chicago International Theatre Festival and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
About the Play
About the Production