The HartBeat ensemble will stage Athol Fugard’s gripping drama MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA!

HartBeat Ensemble today announced their upcoming production of My Children! My Africa!, a gripping drama about the collision of education, idealism and politics by eminent South African playwright Athol Fugard. The play will run from September 29 through October 9 at the HartBeat Ensemble’s Carriage House Theater (360 Farmington Avenue) in Hartford, CT.

The HartBeat Ensemble production of My Children! My Africa! will be directed by Melanie Dreyer with the cast consisting of Brianna Joy Ford, Jelanie Pitcher and Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. Set design will be by Norm Johnson, Jr. lighting design by Jon-Paul LaRocco and sound design by Maritza Ubids. The production will be directed by Martha Lorena Preve. This production was originally developed at the Civic Ensemble in Ithaca, NY in 2016.

South African playwright Athol Fugard confronts the tragedy of apartheid in this gripping drama. In the face of growing racial tension, Professor Mr. M grooms his prized pupil Thami and white Afrikaner student Isabel to compete together in an academic competition. Mr. M intends to prove, through education and collaboration, that a black South African and a white Afrikaner can together lead their country out of the madness of apartheid. The three soon discover that their class is not immune to the conflict that accompanies the overthrow of the old order.

The Washington Post declares: “The politicization of education. The overthrow of monuments. The tension between those who demand immediate progress towards justice and those who trust in a slower, arguably more stable route. South African playwright Athol Fugard’s 1989 play My Children! set on a different continent, in a different century, under a different political system, but its themes and conflicts find echoes in 21st century America.”

Production of the HartBeat Ensemble. of My Children! My Africa! from Thursday September 29 to Sunday October 9. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $25; Students and seniors are $20. No one turned away for lack of funds. Tickets, information and COVID safety measures are available at HartBeatEnsemble.org.

There will be a free ENCOUNTERS conversation on themes from the play that are relevant to today on Wednesday, October 12 at 5:30 p.m. The event will include breakout discussions on critical issues, special guests with expertise in relevant areas, and a light dinner. To register, visit HartBeatEnsemble.org. The ENCOUNTERS series is a program of UConn’s Dodd Human Rights Impact Democracy and Dialogues initiative.

Special educational opportunities are available for schools in conjunction with My Children! from HartBeat Ensemble! My Africa! Open school rehearsals will be available September 14-23 with excerpts from the play, a behind-the-scenes discussion of the artistic process, and a lively discussion. School matinees will be offered from October 11 to 14 at 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact HartBeat Ensemble Lifelong Learning Director Jeanika Browne-Springer at [email protected]

My children ! My Africa! is supported by the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation and the Greater Hartford Council for the Arts’ All-Season Event Grant, a program made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act and the City of Hartford.

Additional support provided by the Department of Economic and Community Development, CT Office of the Arts, CT Humanities, United Arts Campaign of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts Resilience Fund and Travelers.

Jelani Pitcher’s (Thami Mbikwana) recent credits include My Children! My Africa! (Civic Ensemble) Booth in Topdog/Underdog (Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre), George in Our Town (Artistry Theatre), Orlando in As You Like It (Lost Nation Theatre) and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing (Theater at Monmouth). Jelani is a proud graduate of Ithaca College. jelanipitcher.com

Brianna Joy Ford (Isabel Dyson) received her BFA in acting from Ithaca College. She returns to My Children! My Africa! after two successful races in New York. Theater credits include: Emily in Our Town (Artistry Theatre), Alma in Summer and Smoke (The Impostors Theatre), Hero in Much Ado About Nothing (Theatre at Monmouth) and Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher (EDGE Theatre).

briannajoyford.com

Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. (M. M) appeared in My Children! My Africa! at the Civic Ensemble, a theater he co-founded, where he also appeared in Fast Blood and its adaptation of Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card. Godfrey was a producer artist in charge of developing new artists for Off-Broadway’s epic theater ensemble, appearing in A More Perfect Union, Widowers’ Houses (which Godfrey co-adapted with Ron Russell) and Measure for Measure, among other parts. At Epic, he also co-wrote and starred in a documentary play about President Barack Obama’s election, Dispatches From (A)mended America. Additional New York theater credits include The Old Settler (Primary Stages), Betty’s Summer Vacation (Playwrights Horizons), Free Market (Working Theatre), Leader of the People (New Georges), and microcrisis (Ensemble Studio Theatre). He also appeared in several plays at the Syracuse Stage and the People’s Light. Godfrey is a 2012 TCG/Fox Scholar, a TCG SPARK Leadership Program participant, and a lifetime member of Ensemble Studio Theater.

Melanie Dreyer is an actor, director and translator specializing in intercultural and multilingual theater projects. She has made over 70 productions in various international locations including Germany, Turkey and Uganda. Fluent in German, Dreyer translates and directs contemporary German plays, which have been produced in the United States and Canada and published in international journals and anthologies. US credits include Off Broadway at 59E59 St. Theater in New York, Capital Repertory Company, Quantum Theatre, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, barebones and Civic Ensemble productions, among others. She is currently a Professor of Acting and Directing in the Department of Drama at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

Founded in 2001, HartBeat Ensemble’s mission is to create provocative theater that connects our community across traditional barriers of race, gender, class and geography. HartBeat Ensemble is the only institution in Hartford that consistently uses theater to powerfully speak across different generations, races, populations, and interest groups. As an ensemble of artist-activists, we create and present innovative productions based on critical civic issues. HartBeat continues to inspire the next generation of leaders to create change for a better world through its Youth Play Institute. To learn more, please visit HartBeatEnsemble.org.

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