Like most oppressive regimes throughout time, political opponents under South Africa’s Apartheid were dealt with swiftly and harshly and often wound up in Robben Island maximum security prison. The Island is a play about the freedom fighters who were kept there during South Africa’s struggle against Apartheid.
The Island, directed by Hiu Cho Wong and starring the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble, is scheduled to be performed at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, August 11th through 26th, at the Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students.
Set behind the walls of the notorious Robben Island maximum security prison, the play is a tribute to the men and women who were imprisoned there during their fight for democracy and the liberation of South Africa.
The play follows two political prisoners as they rehearse their two-man version of Sophocles’ Antigone for the prison’s annual concert.
The Island demonstrates that it may be easier for a repressive regime to imprison a person, but crushing their spirit is harder.
The Island was developed through extensive workshops with actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona. The play premiered in Cape Town in 1973 and has since toured internationally. It also had an acclaimed Broadway run, winning Tony Awards in 1975 for both actors and earning nominations for Best Play and Best Directing.
The play is based on the true story of Norman Ntshinga, a black actor who was appearing as Haemon in a version of Antigone that Athol Fugard directed in the ’60s. During a police raid, the actor was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the then-banned African National Congress and sentenced to ten years at Robben Island.
Robben Island was a prison for political opponents of the South African government at the time the play was written. It’s most famous inmate was Nelson Mandela, but in its time, it held thousands of men who have been imprisoned because of their resistance to the racist regime that governed South Africa from 1948 until 1994.
Director Hiu Cho Wong is the artistic director of Theatre de R&D in Hong Kong. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in directing from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television and his BFA with first class honors from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. His recent directing credits include The Island, Marat/Sade, Summer and Smoke, Betrayal, Antigone and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. He also composes and performs live music using both Chinese and Western instruments.
Fugard is a South African playwright, actor and director educated at the University of Cape Town. In 1972, he was a founder of Cape Town’s Space Experimental Theatre. One of the first white playwrights to collaborate with black actors and workers, Fugard writes of the frustrations of life in contemporary South Africa and of overcoming the psychological barriers created by apartheid. The politics of his plays, including the banned Blood Knot (1960), put him in conflict with the government and he was forced to take his plays overseas. After Blood Knot was produced in England, his passport was withdrawn for four years.
The cast of The Island will feature Lovensky Jean-Baptiste and Dorian Logan.
Information, (310) 396-3680 ext. 3.