Umabatha - the Zulu Macbeth Sets Summer Tour

News   Umabatha - the Zulu Macbeth Sets Summer Tour The critically acclaimed South African production of Welcome Msomi's Umabatha - the Zulu Macbeth, with a cast of 46 actors, dancers, and musicians, has scheduled a two month 10-city international tour, presented by Columbia Artists Management (CAMI).
Thabani Patrick Tshanini as Umabatha
Thabani Patrick Tshanini as Umabatha Photo by Photo by Ruphin Coudyzer

The critically acclaimed South African production of Welcome Msomi's Umabatha - the Zulu Macbeth, with a cast of 46 actors, dancers, and musicians, has scheduled a two month 10-city international tour, presented by Columbia Artists Management (CAMI).

Stops include such major cities as Los Angeles, Washington, Berkeley, San Diego, Phoenix, and Toronto after its summer engagement at New York's Lincoln Center Festival '97.

After its July 21-27 stand at the New York State Theatre, Umabatha will head to London for a one-week run during the current premiere season of Shakepeare's Globe Theatre (Aug. 4-10). When the play returns to the U.S., it will open not in Chicago, as previously announced, but in Washington, D.C. Sept. 16-21 at Lissner Auditorium, a 1,490-seat facility at 21st and H Streets, NW, affiliated with George Washington University.

Other dates on the tour:

* Berkeley, CA, Sept. 24-28
* Los Angeles, Oct. 2-5
* Irvine, CA, Oct. 6
* Phoenix, AZ, Oct. 10-11
* Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Oct. 21-23
* Binghamton, NY
* Oct. 24; Glassboro, NJ
* Newark, NJ, Oct. 28. A spokesperson for the tour said additional dates may be added.

The play will be performed entirely in Zulu with English surtitles.

Thabani Patrick Tshanini, a South African actor, will appear as Umabatha, the play's parallel role to Macbeth. Dieketseng Mnisi, seen in New York in Sarafina! and Township Fever, portrays Kamadonsela, the parallel role to Lady Macbeth.

Umabatha had its origin in the late 1960s when Msomi, a student in South Africa, wrote a play based on the history of the great Africian nations. Advised by a profession that his project was too ambitious and that he should focus on known universal epics, Msomi turned to Shakespeare.

"When I read Macbeth," said Msomi, "I knew that its murderous story, filled with all its intrigues and the plots brewed by the Scottish clans, was the perfect vehicle to use in my recounting Africian history."

Msomi explained that his specific story concerned the Africian warrior/ stateman Shaka Zulu, whom he named Umabatha.

The play, set in early 19th century Africa, received acclaim at its South African premiere in 1971; and the following year played a sold-out engagement at the Aldwych Theatre on London's West End. It toured the U.S. with an extended Off-Broadway run and a stop at Charleston, SC's Spoleto Festival.

Msomi noted that word of Umabatha - the Zulu Macbeth reached Nelson Mandela while he was an imprisoned political dissident in South Africa. Upon Mandela's election as South African president, he encouraged Msomi to mount a new production of the play "as a vehicle to call attention to the problems of and the vast opportunity for change from so many years of apartheid."

-- By Ellis Nassour

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