Kuntu Repertory Theatre to Stage "Sarafina!"

Issue Date: 
January 8, 2007

Cast will include Pitt students from Africa
Sarafina!—the musical depicting students involved in the 1976 anti-apartheid riots of Soweto, South Africa—will be performed by Pitt’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre from Jan. 25 to Feb. 10 in the 7th-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall. The guest director is Olusegun Ojewuyi, assistant professor of theater at Southern Illinois University.

To set the mood on campus, Sarafina! actors, singers, and musicians will perform from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 10 and Jan. 17 in the lobby of the Litchfield Towers.

The play is told from the point of view of an ambitious student activist, Sarafina, who attends Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto. She feels shame at her mother’s acceptance of her role as a domestic servant in a White household and encourages her peers to rise up in protest.

Kuntu has recruited actors, singers, dancers, and musicians from Pitt’s African Students Organization, and, as a result, a number of cast members hail from South Africa, the Congos, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Swaziland.

Sarafina! was written by Mbongeni Ngema, a South African musician, choreographer, and director who began his career as a theater guitarist. His first work, Woza Albert! a South African treatment of the New Testament, toured the world in the 1980s. His play Asinamali depicted the rent strikes in Black townships near Durban, and Sarafina!, written in 1984, became an international success. The Broadway production was nominated for five Tony awards and the original cast recording was nominated for a Grammy Award. Sarafina! won 11 NAACP Image Awards and was adapted into the 1992 movie starring Leleti Khumalo and Whoopi Goldberg.

Ojewuyi’s directing career spans 20 years and includes projects throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa. His directing credits include King Lear, Waiting for Godot, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, among others. He assisted director Marion McClinton in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 1999 world premiere of August Wilson’s King Hedley II.

Kuntu’s current season is being presented in partnership with Pitt’s Center for Minority Health, part of the Graduate School of Public Health.

After Sarafina!, remaining productions this term will include Cassandra Medley’s Relativity (March 22-April 7) and the world premiere of Healthy Black Family, which was commissioned by Kuntu.

For ticket and group sales information, call 412-624-7298 or visit www.kuntu.org