Generations clash in 'My Children, My Africa'

Generations clash in 'My Children, My Africa'

April 29th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

Christy Gallo and Jeremy Wilkins are featured in "My Children, My Africa," an Ensemble Theater production opening tonight. The three-person cast also includes Malachi Nimmons Jr.

IF YOU GO

What: "My Children, My Africa."

When: 7:30 p.m. today and May 6 and 13; 2 p.m. May 7 and 14; 6:30 p.m. Sunday and May 8 and 15.

Where: Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga, 1918 Union Ave. (St. Andrews Center).

Admission: $10 adults, $8 students.

Phone: 987-5141.

Website: www.ensembletheatreofchattanooga.com

If a play is set in 1980s South Africa, it must revolve around apartheid.

That's not exactly true with "My Children, My Africa," which opens today for a three-weekend run at Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga, said producing artistic director Garry Posey.

It opens with a debate between the sexes and later moves into a debate between races, he said. But its primary thrust is a debate between generations, he said.

The drama was written by Athol Fugard, and while it contains three specific events in the history of apartheid, according to Posey, it is a work of fiction.

From recent history and movies such as 2009's "Invictus," people know about once-jailed former South African president Nelson Mandela and a little about apartheid, he said, but they don't understand the reason behind the turmoil.

Indeed, the division between the white and black races is explored in the play, Posey said, but the relationship between an older black teacher and a younger black student takes center stage.

The teacher advocates education, knowledge and words to achieve power and freedom in the white-dominated country, he said, but the intelligent student believes his race should take a more aggressive tack.

"They want the same thing," Posey said, "but they're going about it [in a different] way."

The play features only three characters, the black teacher (Anela Myalatya), the black student (Thami Mbikwana) and white student Isabel Dyson.

Though set in 1984 at the height of student uprisings against the South African government's apartheid system, the play has lessons for today, according to Posey.

There are timeless issues of racial equality among the races, he said, as well as racial equality within a race.

"Just because [some people within a race] have something more," Posey said, "we shouldn't turn our backs on those who don't."

"My Children, My Africa" is directed by Brenda Schwab, while Posey has designed the set and Sydney Hooper the costumes.