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Role models

Director, two artists who helped create Canadian-South African play in 2005 bring it to PTE

Ian Jackson / Epic Photography</p><p>Ubuntu, an international collaboration of Canadian and South African artists, is a story told through music and dance.</p>

Ian Jackson / Epic Photography

Ubuntu, an international collaboration of Canadian and South African artists, is a story told through music and dance.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/11/2017 (402 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the past couple of years, the subject of immigration has been railroaded by politicians and pundits who fall back on us-and-them narratives that tend to foment suspicion.

Hence, it may be an especially good time for Prairie Theatre Exchange’s play Ubuntu, a co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre about bridging the divides between cultures, but also connecting new Canadians with forgotten aspects of their own heritage.

The play is directed by Citadel’s artistic director Daryl Cloran, who had a hand in the play’s creation when he and a contingent of Canadian theatre artists travelled to Capetown, South Africa in 2005 with the mission of creating something special with South African artists.

Two of those artists are in the show, which they have been performing in Canada off and on since 2009, when the play premièred in Toronto. And since Mbulelo Grootboom and Andile Nebulane helped build their characters from the ground up, they feel a responsibility to the roles that extends beyond the usual actor-for-hire gig.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/11/2017 (402 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the past couple of years, the subject of immigration has been railroaded by politicians and pundits who fall back on us-and-them narratives that tend to foment suspicion.

Hence, it may be an especially good time for Prairie Theatre Exchange’s play Ubuntu, a co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre about bridging the divides between cultures, but also connecting new Canadians with forgotten aspects of their own heritage.

The play is directed by Citadel’s artistic director Daryl Cloran, who had a hand in the play’s creation when he and a contingent of Canadian theatre artists travelled to Capetown, South Africa in 2005 with the mission of creating something special with South African artists.

Two of those artists are in the show, which they have been performing in Canada off and on since 2009, when the play premièred in Toronto. And since Mbulelo Grootboom and Andile Nebulane helped build their characters from the ground up, they feel a responsibility to the roles that extends beyond the usual actor-for-hire gig.

"The story is personal to every one of us," Nebulane says during a break in rehearsal at the Portage Place theatre. "Everything was created from scratch from the blank page. The characters are very close to us."

Grootboom says the theme of the drama is right in the title, and it was the "springboard" of the writing process.

"Ubuntu is the concept that we live by in South Africa, which is the concept of: I am because you are, and you are because I am," says Grootboom. "We are interdependent to each other. So we started from there, as different actors in one space. Different race, different gender. So how do we connect as human beings?"

Grootboom plays Philani, a South African student who comes to Canada to study microbiology at the University of Toronto as a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in his home country.

Ian Jackson / Epic Photography</p><p>Actress Tracey Power, right, and Mbulelo Grootboom in a scene from Ubuntu.</p>

Ian Jackson / Epic Photography

Actress Tracey Power, right, and Mbulelo Grootboom in a scene from Ubuntu.

"To make a long story short, he meets a beautiful student and there’s a connection between him and her, and they end up falling in love," he says.

Complicating matters is the fact Philani has left a son, Jabba (played by Nebulane) in South Africa.

"If you don’t have that connection with your ancestors and your people, there are stones that are left unturned and things won’t go right in your life," Nebulane says. "There are traditions that my father is supposed to take me through, so there is an ancestral and cultural clash in the family."

In creating the play back in 2005, Nebulane and Grootboom allow there was something of a culture clash there too, in the approaches of the collaborators. The Africans like to create "on the floor," in a boisterous improvisational process to finding character.

"We go from outside inward and our colleagues were inside, out," says Grootboom. "They would write and we would find our characters on the floor. We think on our feet. We find things by failing. When we get on the floor, the fear of failure is not there.

"African people are generally physical people," he says.

"Creating ‘on the floor’... that has been my love and what excites me," says Nebulane. "I was never really a fan of getting a book from the shelf and being told: ‘That’s your character. Learn your lines.’ I do it but I was never a fan. I come from the other side where you bring yourself into it.

"This play gave us that opportunity, which is what excited me."

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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