I first encountered Mia McCullough's work in an anthology of plays, a piece with the odd title CHAGRIN FALLS that somehow made me think of resigned droopy-shouldered Victorian spinsters. It turned out to be a quiet nuanced play that takes place in a small town (the titular Chagrin Falls) where the two major industries are a slaughterhouse and a penitentiary. I was mostly taken with how she had reinvented the classic Americana story - you know, the talented artistic teenage boy in the small town who is dying to leave, the older residents with their mundane day-to-day existence, the outsider who comes and shakes up their world - it's a story that you would think has already been mined to death by Sherwood Anderson, Thomas Wolfe, William Saroyan, William Inge, just to name a few. But by making the outsider a half-Vietnamese girl disturbed by having been part of a jury that condemned a man to death, Mia charged an otherwise typical tale with a sociopolitical depth that elevates the play from being just another OUR TOWN or WINESBURG, OHIO.
When I reached out to Mia to read CHAGRIN FALLS at Take Two in 2008, she was working on SINCE AFRICA, which I shelved in my mind as a possibility for a future Take Two. I didn't know too much about the Lost Boys of Sudan but refugee stories strike me straight in the heart, along any stories about children who have been abandoned. When I finally read SINCE AFRICA last year, I knew we had to produce it, but I couldn't find a short film to program with it. Luckily, last year, I somehow discovered FATAKRA. The film won the 2011 Student Academy Awards and being about an Indian family adjusting to a new reality in America, it fits beautifully with the themes in SINCE AFRICA. It turned out that the director, Soham Mehta, also works in both theater and film. Next week, we're thrilled to present FATAKRA and then sit down with Soham for a discussion.
So who are the Lost Boys of Sudan? To make a long story short, when the Brits left in 1956 after more than half a century of colonization, south Sudan attempted to secede and civil war began. It's basically continued off-and-on since then. The Lost Boys of Sudan are approximately 20,000 orphans from the Dinka and Nuer tribes, who lost their families in what is now known as the Second Sudanese War (1983-2005). Many were six or seven years old, who happened to be grazing cattle or somehow away from their families when government troops from the north struck. Fleeing to escape death or induction into the northern army, many walked over 1,000 miles to Ethiopia, Kenya or Uganda where they were picked up by refugee camps.
SINCE AFRICA is the fictionalized story of a Lost Boy of Sudan and his adjustment to a new life in America. It's a wistful play about four people looking for connectivity, for a foundation to stand on, roots to grow from. Ater struggles to acclimate to cold weather, processed food and the concept of gang warfare, all the while yearning for a home that no longer exists. Diane subverts her grief for her recently deceased husband through working with African refugees. Her daughter Eve clings to her father's memory even as she strikes out on her own as a young adult. Deacon Reggie Hudson searches for his African roots and finds a deeper connection with God. The play is an eloquent ode to the commonality of human experience. Through the sharing of history, we find catharsis, empathy, compassion and the divine part of humanity.
We have a fantastic cast that includes Maechi Aharanwa (THE BLACKS/CSC), Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (THE WINTER'S TALE/Yale Rep, THE TEMPEST/Broadway), Jenny Vallancourt (BOOKENDS/NJ Rep), Vladimir Versailles (BURNING/New Group) and Jennifer Dorr White (CALL ME WALDO/Working Theater).
It's a pretty fantastic program and I hope you'll join us on Tuesday. Seating is really limited so buy your tickets now!
Tuesday, April 10
85 East 4th Street, 3rd Fl