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Showing posts from May, 2014

Remembering Sophiatown

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By Shannon Stockwell
Can Themba’s short story “The Suit” takes place in Sophiatown, a small suburb of Johannesburg, in the mid 1950s. The township was a tangle of contradictions during the middle of the twentieth century. It was one of the only places in all of South Africa where black people could legally own property. Although the location wasn’t great (it was near a sewer) and the township was small, the prospect of some freedom in a environment of oppressive apartheid laws was enticing for South Africans of color—including people with mixed and Asian heritage. This led to overcrowding and slum conditions, which led to violence and poverty, but Sophiatown’s unique diversity cultivated a vibrant community of art and culture; some of the best South African musicians and writers of the 1950s lived in Sophiatown.
With its need for total racial segregation, however, the Afrikaner National Party found Sophiatown’s existence unacceptable. The government declared that the majority of th…

A Brief History of The Suit

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By Dan Rubin

Can Themba’s “The Suit” was first published in the inaugural issue of a South African journal called the Classic in 1963. In 1966, while Themba was in exile in Swaziland, the South African apartheid government declared him a statutory communist and banned his work. It remained unavailable in his homeland until 1982. In 1994, Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon adapted “The Suit” into a play, which premiered at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre.

Director Peter Brook learned about Mutloatse and Simon’s stage adaptation of The Suit when he read about the play in a newspaper article. He requested the script, which he shared with longtime collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne. “Ah! Yes, this is remarkable,” he remembers her saying. “But it’s only like a first draft. We could do it in our theater in Paris,” she told him, referring to the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, home of Brook’s International Centre for Theatre Research, “so we’ll do it in French.” They put Le costume, as they call…