EgoPo Announces 2018-19 Season Theater of South Africa

EgoPo Classic Theater announces their 2018-19 Season: Theater of South Africa, celebrating great dramatic works of South Africa and highlighting the remarkable transformation from apartheid to democracy. The season will begin with a South African version of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, as created and performed by Abrahamse and Meyer Productions from Cape Town, South Africa, in partnership with Drexel University's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and their Performing Arts Department as part of their Rankin Scholars in Residence program. EgoPo's mainstage season launches with A Human Being Died That Night, a gripping account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela; followed by Three Sisters Two by Reza de Wet, a Chekhov sequel confronting the fall of privileged class; and concluding with two plays in rotation repertory: "Master Harold"...and the Boys by Athol Fugard and Egoli by Matsemela Manaka (co-produced with Theatre in the X), shining a light on two vastly different experiences under apartheid.

EgoPo continues their tradition of producing themed seasons. This year, they focus on South Africa and the transformation of the nation post-apartheid. In 1994, democratic elections marked the end of apartheid. Apartheid, meaning "separateness" in Afrikaans, was an elaborate system of white supremacist laws denying the country's majority their full rights of citizenry. The white minority clung to power by prohibiting land ownership and the accumulation of wealth, limiting educational opportunities, restricting travel, implementing mass incarceration, disenfranchising Black voters, and implementing racial segregation in every aspect of society.

Following apartheid's fall, South Africa's new President, former anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, focused on dismantling racist laws, implementing new protections, and fostering racial reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a body of justice assembled to expose racist atrocities and promote healing. Victims of human rights violations gave testimony about their experiences in public, often televised, hearings. Perpetrators of violence could request amnesty from criminal prosecution on the condition of full and truthful confession. Despite controversy, the TRC was seen by many as a crucial step toward achieving a full and free democracy in South Africa.

EgoPo hopes this season reinforces the need for understanding and empathy in our own country, while sharing the powerful work of South African writers and creators with Philadelphia audiences. More than ever, we need to be able to find the humanity and commonality among us, while still honoring and celebrating our differences.

Desire Under the Elms

EgoPo partners with Drexel University's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and their Performing Arts Department to bring South African theater troupe Abrahamse and Meyer Productions to Philadelphia. Eugene O'Neill's powerful classic, re-set in colonial Cape Town, has won critical acclaim in South Africa for its lyric beauty and boldness. O'Neill's 1924 tragedy about a stepson in love with his stepmother is reimagined in rural South Africa, where a British farmer brings home a Xhosa bride. This emotionally potent cast creates a smoldering drama, leaving audiences breathless.

Eugene O'Neill had a life-long fascination with South Africa, which inspired director Fred Abrahamse's choice to transpose the original New England setting of the play, to the Eastern Cape of the 1890s. The production features an evocative original score by celebrated composer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and detailed period costumes by award-winning designer Marcel Meyer. Described by the New York Times as "superb...inventive...and entrancing," Desire Under the Elms is one of the must-see productions in Philadelphia this season.

Abrahamse and Meyer Productions was founded in 2006 by Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer. It is a leading force in independent classical theatre with regular performances across South Africa, Europe and the United States of America. They will host a workshop for professional actors on Saturday, October 6.

Desire Under the Elms is made possible in part through a grant from Drexel's Rankin Scholar In Residence Program. It will run from October 4-7 at The Mandell Theater at Drexel University.

A Human Being Died That Night

EgoPo's mainstage season kicks off with A Human Being Died That Night, the searing account of the atrocities committed by the South African police forces under apartheid, adapted for stage by Nicholas Wright. This heart-rending play is adapted from the award-winning 2003 book by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a psychologist who served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Set in Pretoria Central Prison, the author is assigned to report on ex-officer Eugene de Kock, nicknamed Prime Evil. Pumla and Eugene must confront their ideas of humanity and the power of forgiveness and remorse.

EgoPo Artistic Advisory Board member Steven Wright will take on the direction of this play that the New York Times called "quietly gripping," and The South African said "transcends the South African context with its extraordinary message." In addition to his acting work with EgoPo (Machinal, The Hairy Ape, Death of a Salesman) Wright has been seen on stages throughout Philadelphia, including Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Wilma, and The Arden.

EgoPo is excited to welcome Niya Colbert (Theatre in the X, Revolution Shakespeare, Sedgwick Theatre) and Paul Nolan (Lantern, PTC, Theatre Exile, Walnut Street Theatre) as Pumla and Eugene in their EgoPo debuts.

A Human Being Died That Night will be staged at the Latvian Society Theater. Previews begin October 24, with Press Opening October 26; the show will run three weeks, closing November 11.

Three Sisters Two

The Theater of South Africa season continues with Reza de Wet's Three Sisters Two. Originally written in Afrikaans, the language of Dutch colonial South Africa, the play imagines Chekhov's characters 20 years later with the Bolsheviks now in power. After the fall of Apartheid, the privileged white class of South Africa had to redefine their position in society. De Wet uses post-revolutionary Russia as a stand in for her own country to ask how colonial powers respond when they stand on the threshold of a new era.

Director Brenna Geffers (Anna, Machinal, The Hairy Ape) directs this play, named Best Production of the Year at the 1999 South African Theater Awards. Beyond her work with EgoPo, Geffers has directed locally for Theatre Exile, Revolution Shakespeare, and Die-Cast, the site-specific theater company she founded with designer Thom Weaver. Last season, her world premiere adaptation of Anna Karenina with EgoPo earned four Barrymore nominations, including Outstanding Direction.

The design team includes set and lights by Thom Weaver (The Seagull, Machinal), costumes by Natalia de la Torre (Anna, Delirium), and sound by Chris Sannino.

Three Sisters Two will be staged at the Latvian Society Theater. Previews begin January 30, with Press Opening February 1; the show will run three weeks, closing February 17.

Two Shows in Repertory: "Master Harold"...and the Boys and Egoli

EgoPo closes the season with these two powerful plays in rotating repertory to shine a light on two very different experiences under apartheid.

Athol Fugard's play was initially banned in South Africa before being produced by Yale Rep in 1982 and later Broadway. Master Harold played a major role in awakening global consciousness of apartheid's atrocities and helped to lead to the system's eventual downfall. This semi-autographical piece depicts how societal racism can pass down to the individual despite our best intentions, and presents the challenges and hopes for true change.

Artistic Director Lane Savadove directs the famed classic anti-apartheid play that Frank Rich of the New York Times called "lyrical in design, shattering in impact." Savadove's production of Chekhov's The Seagull was named Best Overall Production at the Barrymore Awards, with six nominations, including Outstanding Direction. Most recently, he made history by directing the world premiere of John Guare's 9-hour epic Lydie Breeze Trilogy.

Egoli, by Matsemela Manaka, is a look into the world of miners in South Africa, depicting lives that are often overlooked, as they struggle with racial inequality, poverty, and systemic incarceration. Manaka was a pivotal player in the grassroots black theatre movement that grew out of the 1976 Soweto uprisings protesting the government's political repression and intense state censorship.

Co-produced with Theatre in the X, this play that "grips the audience by the scruff of the neck" (The Daily Sun, Johannesburg) will be directed by Katrina Shobe and stars Carlo Campbell (Anna, Machinal, The Hairy Ape) and Walter DeShields (Philadelphia Theatre Company, Inis Nua, Stagecrafters). Theatre in the X seeks to remove the barriers to theater, providing the people of West Philadelphia and the African American community at large the opportunity to see professional quality theater for no cost, and creating opportunities for artists of color. A special preview of Egoli will be free to Theatre in the X patrons with an invitation code.

"Master Harold"...and the Boys and Egoli will be staged at the Latvian Society Theater. Previews begin March 19, with Press Openings on March 22 (Master Harold) and March 23 (Egoli); the shows will run three weeks, closing April 7.


EgoPo's subscriptions come in five different levels to help audiences get the most out of the season-long journey. Basic Subscriptions for all four mainstage shows are just $75, with subscriber levels from Bronze to Platinum offering perks including tickets to Desire Under the Elms, reserved seats, Champagne Opening Nights, and more. For more information, go to or call 267-273-1414.

Touring to Provincetown

EgoPo's hit presentation of Samuel Beckett's Company has been invited to the 2018 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. Company has sold out in five cities including the 2009 Philly Fringe. The immersive sensory experience will run for four days in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival (September 20-23) before travelling to Provincetown (September 27-30). Co-produced by Rowan University.

EgoPo Classic Theater's
Theater of South Africa Season

Desire Under the Elms

The Mandell Theater, Drexel University
3220 Chestnut St.
Runs: October 4-7

Tickets*: $32


A Human Being Died That Night

The Latvian Society Theater
531 North 7th St.
Previews: October 24-25

Runs: October 26-November 11

Tickets*: Wed-Thurs: $25, Fri-Sun: $32, Opening Night: $35


Three Sisters Two

The Latvian Society Theater
531 North 7th St.

Previews: January 30-31

Runs: February 1-17

Tickets*: Wed-Thurs: $25, Fri-Sun: $32, Opening Night: $35


"Master Harold"...and the Boys and Egoli
The Latvian Society Theater
531 North 7th St.
Theatre in the X Day: March 19 (invitation only)

Previews: March 20-21

Runs: March 22-April 7
Tickets*: Wed-Thurs: $25, Fri-Sun: $32, Opening Nights: $35


*standard ticketing fees apply


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