“MASTER HAROLD” … AND THE BOYS
By Athol Fugard
Directed by Ryan Rilette
Apr 11 – May 6, 2018
Set against the backdrop of 1950s South African apartheid, renowned dramatist Athol Fugard sets an incongruous scene: two black men are practicing ballroom dancing in a tea room, when the white son of the shop’s boorish owner returns home from school, and the disparate trio settle in for a rainy afternoon of laughter, nostalgia, and enlightenment together. But news of a family emergency stirs up demons, and both “Master Harold” and “the Boys” are quickly reminded which side of the party line they fall on. This “lyrical,” “shattering,” and “enduring” (New York Times) parable reminds us all that institutional oppression has personal repercussions.
“Fugard creates a blistering fusion of the personal and the political.” – The New York Times
Athol Fugard started working in the late 1950s with a group of actors in Johannesburg, including Zakes Mokae, who were influenced by Strasberg’s method acting. Fugard wrote his first play No Good Friday, which was performed in The Rehearsal Room. In the early 1960s Fugard returned to Port Elizabeth and worked with The Serpent Players. Fugard’s attacks on apartheid brought him into direct conflict with the South African government. After his play Blood Knot (1961) was produced in England, the government withdrew his passport for four years. His support in 1962 of an international boycott against the South African practice of segregating theatre audiences led to further restrictions. The restrictions were relaxed somewhat in 1971, when he was allowed to travel to England to direct his play Boesman and Lena (1969). A Lesson from Aloes won the 1980 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. “Master Harold”…and the Boys (1982) premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre and then was taken to Broadway. Fugard has appeared as an actor in several international films, including Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979), Ghandi (1982), and The Killing Fields (1984). Interestingly, the well-known US actor Danny Glover has acted in numerous Fugard plays: The Island, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, Blood Knot, and “Master Harold”…and the Boys. Fugard’s plays have been regularly premiered in fringe theatres in South Africa, London (The Royal Court Theatre), and New York. The varying styles of his plays can be roughly split up into periods: Apprenticeship (up to 1957), Social Realism (1958 to 1961), Chamber Theatre (1961 to 1970), Improvised Theatre (1966 to 1973), and Poetic Symbolism (1975 onwards).
Ryan Rilette is in his sixth season as Artistic Director of Round House, where he directed Angels in America Part II: Perestroika by Tony Kushner, The Night Alive by Conor McPherson, This by Melissa James Gibson, and How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain. Prior to joining Round House, he served as Producing Director of Marin Theatre Company for five years. For MTC, he has directed the world premieres of Bellwether by Steve Yockey and Magic Forest Farm by Zayd Dohrn. He also directed God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza; Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire; Boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb; and In The Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the first part of The Brother Sister Plays Trilogy, which MTC co-produced with American Conservatory Theater and Magic Theatre, and which was named “the theatrical event of the year” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to joining MTC, Rilette served as Producing Artistic Director of Southern Rep Theatre, the leading professional theatre in New Orleans, from 2002 to 2007. At Southern Rep, he directed the world premieres of The House of Plunder by Jim Fitzmorris, The Vulgar Soul by John Biguenet, and The Sunken Living Room by David Caudle; and the regional premieres of Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?; In Walks Ed by Keith Glover; and Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire. He also commissioned, developed, and directed two plays about Hurricane Katrina and its effect on the region: Rising Water by John Biguenet and The Breach by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Catherine Filloux, and Joe Sutton. Rilette is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company, the immediate past president of the National New Play Network, and a former professor at Tulane and Loyola universities in New Orleans. He earned his MFA in Acting from American Conservatory Theater.