Re-Introducing Athol Fugard to Seattle

From Jerry Manning, Producing Artistic Director

In early September—two days after I was appointed Producing Artistic Director— it became clear that a planned production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was not going happen. Skittish outside producers and wavering directors derailed the play. What were we going to produce in its stead?

The Road to Mecca immediately sprang to mind.

In the late 1980s into the early 1990s it seemed that South African writer Athol Fugard had a new play every season. My Children! My Africa! and Valley Song were mounted by companies around the country. Fugard’s work always carried strong political content—most specifically about the oppression of apartheid and the effects that the South African social system exacted on both white and black people. His plays told simple, personal stories of people struggling with racial segregation.

The Road to Mecca is set in South Africa during the time of apartheid, but in this play Fugard deals with a myriad of themes, with race only a tangential focus. How does one define independence? What constitutes art and who determines such? What role does religion play in our lives, and at what point does religion undermine our self-expressiveness? What moral obligations exist between young and old folks?

The generational themes struck me particularly as I re-read The Road to Mecca. Every year the Rep takes on as many as a dozen interns, recent graduates from some of the country’s best schools. I asked one of the new interns to pull some information on Athol Fugard and apartheid—I was met with blank stares. People now in their early 20s have no recollection of it. No recollection of Robbins Island and the Krugerrand. No real knowledge of Athol Fugard’s work. We thought it time to change that.

I am pleased to welcome back to Seattle Rep Leigh Silverman who staged Blue Door here two seasons ago. I am also delighted to welcome back to this theatre Marya Sea Kaminski (last seen here as Rachel Corrie), Terry Moore, and Dee Maaske who last appeared at the Rep in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. And I am pleased to re-introduce Athol Fugard to this community.

The Road to Mecca is currently in rehearsals and opens Jan. 15.

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