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The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard

From South Africa to the World

Albert Wertheim

Publication Year: 2000

"Albert Wertheim's study of Fugard's plays is both extremely insightful and beautifully written... This book is aimed not only at teachers, students, scholars, and performers of Fugard but also at the person who simply loves going to see a Fugard play at the theatre." -- Nancy Topping Bazin, Eminent Scholar and Professor Emerita, Old Dominion University

Athol Fugard is considered one of the most brilliant, powerful, and theatrically astute of modern dramatists. The energy and poignancy of his work have their origins in the institutionalized racism of his native South Africa, and more recently in the issues facing a new South Africa after apartheid. Albert Wertheim analyzes the form and content of Fugard's dramas, showing that they are more than a dramatic chronicle of South African life and racial problems. Beginning with the specifics of his homeland, Fugard's plays reach out to engage more far-reaching issues of human relationships, race and racism, and the power of art to evoke change. The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard demonstrates how Fugard's plays enable us to see that what is performed on stage can also be performed in society and in our lives; how, inverting Shakespeare, Athol Fugard makes his stage the world.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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pp. vii-xv

If one were to list the six or seven most significant English-language playwrights alive in the last decade of the twentieth century, that list would undoubtedly include the names of Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, and perhaps August Wilson and David Hare. It would also surely include South African playwright, director, and actor Athol Fugard. ...

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ONE: Early Work and Early Themes

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pp. 1-16

One of the high points of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s 1992 retrospective exhibition of the works of Henri Matisse was the attention devoted to his earliest works. There one could immediately see his origins in works of seventeenth-century Dutch still life painters and the subsequent French painters Courbet and Chardin.1 ...

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TWO: The Port Elizabeth Plays:The Voice with Which We Speak from the Heart

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pp. 17-68

In 1959 and 1960, the Fugards spent a not very successful or happy time in Europe. Fugard’s attempts to find work in the London theatre were largely abortive. In 1961, Athol and Sheila returned to South Africa, where their daughter Lisa and Fugard’s new play The Blood Knot were born. ...

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THREE: “Acting” against Apartheid

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pp. 69-99

Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act (1974) is the first of Athol Fugard’s “witness to apartheid” plays. It forces its audience to confront the terrible effects of the South African law that prohibited sexual relations and marriage between members of two different races. ...

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FOUR: Dimetos: Fugard’s First Problem Play

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pp. 100-116

Writing about Athol Fugard’s Dimetos in 1985, Russell Vandenbroucke characterizes the play as “Fugard’s densest and most ambitious work to date.” That description continues to be apt. Dennis Walder comments, “Dimetos’s first audiences did not know what to make of the play” and describes the disapproval of the play by those who had come to see Fugard as an agitprop, political activist playwright.1 ...

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FIVE: The Drama as Teaching and Learning: Trauerspiel, Tragedy, Hope, and Race

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pp. 117-152

The collaborative efforts with Winston Ntshona and John Kani that resulted in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island, followed by the retreat into the relative abstraction of Dimetos, seem to have created a kind of crucible that allowed Fugard to forge his two subsequent plays, arguably his masterpieces: A Lesson from Aloes (1978) and “Master Harold” . . . and the Boys (1982).1 ...

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SIX: The Other Problem Plays

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pp. 153-176

For many, Athol Fugard is first and foremost a political playwright.1 He is certainly that, but running rather prominently through his work as well is an abiding concern with art, the artist, and how the artist comes to be an artist. It is there in the imaginary playwriting and acting of the two brothers in The Blood Knot (1961) and in the playwriting and performing of the two prisoners in The Island (1973), ...

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SEVEN: Writing to Right: Scripting Apartheid’s Demise

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pp. 177-202

In a curious way, writing the anomalous and parabolic Dimetos, treating the madness of the title character, seemed to free up Fugard so that he could go on to write of both individual and racist madness in new ways in the plays that followed: A Lesson from Aloes, Master Harold, and The Road to Mecca. ...

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EIGHT: Where Do We, Where Do I, Go from Here? Performing a New South Africa

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pp. 203-238

The need to listen, of which Mary Benson spoke when she described Fugard’s ideas in Playland (1992), is a need that forms the very basis of Fugard’s subsequent two works, My Life (1994) and Valley Song (1995). On 8 July 1994, at the annual Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Athol Fugard launched his first new work staged in and for the “new” post-apartheid South Africa, ...


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pp. 239-257

Works Cited

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pp. 259-266


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pp. 267-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109002
E-ISBN-10: 0253109000
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253338235

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2000