SOUTH AFRICA: THEN & NOW—Two Monumental Plays by Two South African Icons in Rep at Mosaic

By: Mar. 10, 2017
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Mosaic Theater Company of DC presents South Africa: Then & Now, a dynamic spring repertory that takes audience members back to the depths of Apartheid, before moving forward to the ongoing search for truth and reconciliation in a wounded country. The repertory launches with Athol Fugard's seminal masterpiece, BLOOD KNOT (March 29-April 30, 2017)-an intimate parable about a brotherhood devastated by the constraints of Apartheid-under the direction of Studio Theatre Founding Artistic Director Joy Zinoman, making her Mosaic Theater Company debut.

Logan Vaughn returns to Mosaic for the second time this season to stage a companion South African drama, A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT (April 6-30, 2017). Based on Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela's acclaimed memoir, and adapted for the stage by Nicholas Wright, this play recounts Gobodo-Madikizela's interrogations of one of Apartheid's most notorious agents, Eugene de Kock, known by many as 'Prime Evil.'

The repertory has been designed to highlight the dialogue in and between these plays-one dark-skinned and one light-skinned brother in Blood Knot; one black psychologist and one white prisoner in A Human Being Died That Night. In the former, South Africa's most iconic playwright, the now 84-year-old Athol Fugard, tells a deeply personal story about the lacerating behavioral and psychological effects of Apartheid on a family. In the latter, the black South African psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela uses an equally personal story to frame universal questions about the limits of forgiveness and the search for truth, which have defined post-Apartheid reconstruction.

Noteworthy to Mosaic, these dramas represent two different eras in South Africa's struggle for justice, brought out by the intergenerational artistic dialogue between the repertory's two directors-Joy Zinoman, one of America's most acclaimed and influential artists; and Logan Vaughn, a rising force in American theater who returns for the second time this season, following her workshop direction of Stacey Rose and Alexis Spiegel's new play about race and identity, The Black Jew Thing.

"As powerful and intimate as each of these chamber plays are," notes Mosaic Theater Founding Artistic Director, Ari Roth, "equally thrilling for us will be the epic sweep of history that staging them both together will allow us to behold. The South African transformation-from Apartheid state to still fledgling, new democracy-is one of the most inspiring advents of the last century, yet not without its complexities. We're inviting audiences to immerse themselves in the drama of South Africa and to experience life within the belly of oppression at a granular level, in intimate theatrical detail."

Roth continues, "Joy Zinoman is a precision genius who believes that truth lies within that detail; in the moment to moment; in the intimacy of behavior sharply observed. And she's chosen two master actors-one she's worked with for decades, and one she's searched the country to find-to bring the most truthful illustration of how people live together under the yoke of oppression. What strategies; what games; what personas do they adopt to resist; to exist; to not succumb? Logan Vaughn is an essentialist focusing on the power of a dramatic confrontation between a white male torturer and a black female psychologist. What unites them and keeps them talking to each other over a five-year period? These two radically different dramas help us appreciate how thoroughly South Africa has transformed over the course of a generation."


Blood Knot is helmed by two superstar performers. Nathan Hinton plays the dark-skinned Zachariah, an illiterate laborer who has spent much of his life in the shadow of his light-skinned and more intellectual brother, Morris, played by Tom Story. Morris uses his fair complexion to pass as white, a status that has awarded him countless privileges over Zachariah. But when Zachariah finds himself in love with a new pen pal-a white woman-and the possibilities she represents, the knotted tensions that lie beneath the surface of their brotherhood threaten to tear the two apart.

"I cannot wait to begin rehearsals for this great and moving play that we need now more than ever," shares Blood Knot director Joy Zinoman. "A play about our interdependence, about the love, the Blood Knot between brothers, about the brutal personal effects of state sponsored racism. Two great actors, Tom Story and Nate Hinton, join me in the rehearsal room to explore a piece of great, classic writing-the universal metaphor of Cain and Abel beyond the political or narrowly topical. Brothers, Mother Love, role-playing, violence, escaping our destiny. Athol Fugard is a giant. Having directed or produced The Road to Mecca (the sister play to this, with Holly Twyford and Tana Hicken), Master Harold and the Boys, My Children, My Africa and more, I was excited to be asked by Ari and Serge to be part of this South African Rep."

Blood Knot premiered in 1961 in Johannesburg, South Africa, with Fugard himself performing as Morris, alongside acclaimed South African actor Zakes Mokae as Zachariah. The premiere production closed the day after it opened, after just a single performance, in part because it was then illegal for a racially mixed company to perform on the same stage. The American premiere opened Off-Broadway at the Cricket Theatre three years later, in 1964, starring James Earl Jones as Zachariah, and J.D. Cannon as Morris. In 1985, nearly 24 years after the premiere, a trimmed version of the play premiered on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, with Fugard and Mokae reprising the roles they had originated in 1961.

The last professional production of Blood Knot to take place in Washington, DC was in 2002, at the African Continuum Theatre Company. It was staged by Mosaic Theater Resident Director Jennifer L. Nelson, and performed by DC favorites Jefferson A. Russell as Zachariah, and Michael Glenn as Morris.


In A Human Being Died That Night, Erica Chamblee (Mosaic's The Gospel of Lovingkindness) plays Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, in conversation with Eugene de Kock, played by Chris Genebach (Everyman's Death of A Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire Rep). Known by many as 'Prime Evil,' de Kock represents both the nadir of Apartheid, and the absolute depths of humanity. This probing drama offers up timeless questions from an unforgettable true story, and "tugs at our humanity, compassion, and integrity" (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).

"This play is not just about two people, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Eugene de Kock, it is about Old South Africa and New South Africa," shares A Human Being Died That Night director Logan Vaughn. "It is about the test between both. And of the limits of empathy and forgiveness. I'm excited to share this timely play with Mosaic audiences during a period in which our country is in need of healing and walking through great uncertainty. And hope to reveal what Pumla knows, that there are no monsters in the world, only other human beings like us."

A Human Being Died That Night premiered at The Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in London in May 2013, starring Noma Dumezweni as Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, and Matthew Marsh as Eugene de Kock. The production later toured South Africa, before returning to the Hampstead in 2014, and later opening Off-Broadway at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music in 2015.

Repertory Discussion Panels announced:

"Truth and Reconciliation: Enduring and Dismantling Racism"

The Reva and David Logan Community Engagement Initiative continues through the repertory with an exciting discussion series, titled "Truth and Reconciliation: Enduring and Dismantling Racism." The series includes discussions with members of the creative team and casts, as well as community and faith leaders, affiliated artists, and members of the audience. Confirmed participants and discussants include Andrea Barron (Advocacy Consultant, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition), Fran Buntman (Truth and Reconciliation scholar and professor of sociology, George Washington University), Gibson Cima (Assistant Teaching Professor, Georgetown University), Bill Fletcher Jr. (author and activist), Paul Landau (History Professor, University of Maryland), Tulin Levitas (World Languages & Philosophy Professor, Montgomery College), Pamela Pinnock (Board Member, Mosaic Theater Company), Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zoë (production dramaturg), Patricia Ruppert (World Languages & Philosophy Professor, Montgomery College), April Sizemore-Barber (Assistant Professor of the Practice, Georgetown University), Daniel Whitman (retired, Foreign Service Officer), and Emira Woods (Global Client Principal for Social Impact Programs, ThoughtWorks). For updated information on the discussion series schedule, panelist bios, and ASL/open caption information for discussions, visit

Athol Fugard (Playwright, Blood Knot) is a South African playwright, novelist, actor, and director who writes in English. He is best known for his political plays opposing the system of Apartheid and for the 2005 Academy Award-winning film of his novel Tsotsi, directed by Gavin Hood. Fugard is an adjunct professor of playwriting, acting, and directing in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of California, San Diego. For the academic year 2000-2001, he was the IU Class of 1963 Wells Scholar Professor at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. He is the recipient of many awards, honors, and honorary degrees, including the 2005 Order of Ikhamanga in Silver "for his excellent contribution and achievements in the theatre" from the government of South Africa. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Joy Zinoman (Director, Blood Knot) is the Founding Artistic Director at The Studio Theatre, where she directed more than 70 productions before retiring in 2010. In her 35 years at Studio, she led the theatre through 200 productions, which garnered 250 Helen Hayes nominations and many awards. She received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction for A Number by Caryl Churchill and Indian Ink by Tom Stoppard, and was nominated for the award nine times. Recently, Ms. Zinoman directed Sounding Beckett at Classic Stage Company in New York City. Her last plays at The Studio Theatre included American Buffalo by David Mamet, Moonlight by Harold Pinter, The History Boys by Alan Bennett, Shining City by Conor McPherson, Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard, The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard, and The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. A pioneer in the development of the Logan Circle neighborhood, her numerous honors include The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community, the Mayor's Art Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline, and the Washingtonian of the Year Award. She is also a Master Teacher and Director of Curriculum at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory, which she founded in 1975.

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (Author, A Human Being Died That Night) is a Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies at the University of the Free State. Since her work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), her research has focused on the reparative elements of victims-perpetrator dialogue in the aftermath of mass trauma and violence. Her current research applies the insights emerging from her study of forgiving to explore the dimensions of empathy in the context of perpetrators' remorse and victims' forgiveness. Her interests in relation to empathy focus on the web of feelings and the transformative shifts that open up in dialogue processes between former enemies in the aftermath of historical trauma.

After serving on the TRC, Gobodo-Madikizela spent an extended period at Harvard University as a fellow affiliated with the following programs: The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Center for the Study of Values in Public Life, and as one of the inaugural fellows at the Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. During this time, she wrote her award-winning book, A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness, for which she won the Alan Paton Award in South Africa, and the prestigious Christopher Award in the United States. Her other books include Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma, as co-author; as co-editor of Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past, and as editor of the volume, Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory. She has delivered several endowed lectures and keynote addresses internationally, and has been a speaker at graduation ceremonies. Her honors include: Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, 2006; the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, 2007; being honored among "100 People who Made a Difference" in the Permanent Exhibit of Hall of Heroes in the National Freedom Centre in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States, 2005; and the Social Change, awarded by Rhodes University for "contribution made by leading psychologists to social change in South Africa," 2010. She serves as a Board Member to the following organizations: Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Healing of the Memories Institute, and as Advisor to Facing History and Ourselves.

Nicholas Wright (Adapter, A Human Being Died That Night) is a British dramatist. He was born in Cape Town, attended Rondebosch Boys' School and from the age of six was a child actor on radio and on the stage. He came to London in 1958 to train as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and subsequently worked as a floor-assistant in BBC Television and as a runner in film, notably John Schlesinger's Far From the Madding Crowd. He started work at the Royal Court in 1965 as Casting Director and became, first, an Assistant Director there and then the first Director of the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, where for several years he presented an innovative program of new writing. From 1975-1977 he was joint artistic director of the Royal Court and he was subsequently a member of The Royal Court Theatre's Board. He is former literary manager and associate director of the Royal National Theatre, and a former member of the National Theatre Board. In 2015 and 2016 he was the judge of the Yale Drama Series competition for playwrights. His publications include 99 plays, a survey of drama from Aeschylus to the present day, and Changing Stages, co-written with Richard Eyre.

Logan Vaughn (Director, A Human Being Died That Night) is a New York based Director from Chicago. In 2008 Logan was awarded the Goodman Theater's prestigious Joyce Arts Fellowship in Casting and subsequently worked as the Tony Award winning theater's Associate Casting Director for five seasons. In addition to the Goodman she has cast for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory, Cardinal Stage, and Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Logan was Playwrights Horizon's Director in Residence 2012-2013, where she assistant directed Amy Herzog's The Great God Pan and Lisa D'Amour's Obie Award winning play, Detroit. In 2012, Logan was also named a Member of the Director's Lab, Lincoln Center. As a Director and Assistant Director, she has worked with Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, 59E59, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Playwrights Horizons, Second City Theater, National Black Theatre, Victory Gardens, Teatro Vista, and Court Theatre. Her work in film includes assisting the Academy Award-winning producing team behind Precious and Monster's Ball as well as serving as head of casting for several award winning Independents including My Name is Jerry and Southern Cross. She most recently directed the Off-Broadway premiere of Stella Fawn Ragsdale's Love Letters to a Dictator in Summer Shorts Festival at 59E59, and Lena: A Moment with a Lady written and performed by Syndee Winters.

The creative team for the repertory includes set designer Debra Booth, lighting designer Michael Gianetti, sound designer David Lamont Wilson, composer Mongezi Ntaka, costume designer Brandee Mathies, properties designer Michelle Elwyn, dramaturg Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zöe, projections designer Patrick Lord, dialect coach Kim Bey, fight choreographer (Blood Knot) Robb Hunter, scenic artist Marianna Fernandez, technical director William M. Woodard, stage manager (Blood Knot) Solomon HaileSelassie, and stage manager (Human Being) Kathryn Dooley.

For additional production information visit


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