Ithaca, NY – MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA!, Athol Fugard’s gripping, eloquent drama about teaching and learning within segregated South Africa will start the 2016-2017 season, Civic Ensemble’s fifth. Fugard was not only an internationally acclaimed playwright but also a freedom fighter in his home country. He confronts the tragedy of apartheid in this compelling tale, full of questions still being asked in 2016 within the Black Lives Matter movement.

Autumn 1984. The school year has already begun in a small segregated township on the Eastern cape. Anela Myalatya, known affectionately as Mr. M, prepares two pupils, Thami Mbikwana, a black boy, and Isabel Dyson, a white girl, to compete together in an academic competition.

Right outside the window, the anti-apartheid movement starts to transform their country. These three soon find that their classroom is not immune from the conflict which accompanies overturning the old order. Thami and Isabel’s educations are inexorably intertwined with the nation’s politics. Mr. M attempts to persuade his students that education, not violence, is the answer to South Africa’s problems, but as the competition draws nearer, it becomes clear that the nation’s future depends entirely on how the younger generation chooses to act.

[su_note]What: MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA! Written by Athol Fugard, Directed by Melanie Dreyer

When: August 4-7 & 11-14, 2016; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 4pm

Where: Lehman Alternative Community School, 111 Chestnut St, Ithaca, NY 14850

Tickets: Pay What You Can; Buy online in advance at or at venue day of[/su_note]

In a 2011 New York Times interview, Fugard recalled: “That play came out of the darkest period of apartheid years, a period when my faith in writing as a response to the situation was really being challenged. Do you use bombs or bullets, or do you use words when you are living with the most appalling brutality and violence against the majority of the people?”

Civic Ensemble is proud to once again invite the citizens of central New York to probe into social issues with no simple answers. MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA! has resonated as deeply with global audiences since 1989 as it does today in the United States with the Movement for Black Lives. Our country continues to struggle with racial inequality, violence, and oppressive structures.

“It is rare in my career that I have directed a show that is more socially and politically relevant. In this country, we are in desperate need of a conversation about race and compassion,” said director Melanie Dreyer. “I think this show is providing the opportunity to inspire those conversations, through the lens of history. We can learn from past classrooms, past teachers and students, lessons learned and already forgotten. We want to invite you into Mr. M’s classroom for a conversation.”

Directed by Dreyer, this production will feature 2016 Ithaca College graduates Jelani Pitcher and Brianna Ford as Thami and Isabel, as well as Civic Ensemble Artistic Director Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. as Mr. M.

Creating the world of the play is an impressive roster of local artists, including Cornell University and Ithaca College faculty, alumni, and students: set design by Norm Johnson, costume and prop design by Liz Kitney, lighting design by E.D. Intemann and Laura Dera, and sound design by Rudy Gerson; with dramaturgy done by Caitlin Kane and photography by Danielle Stoffregen. Angela Griggs is the stage manager and Lucy Walker is the producer, with marketing and box office support from N. Kiefer Harrington and Sam Morrison.

Performances will be held in the Black Box Theatre at the Lehman Alternative Community School Black Box Theatre, 111 Chestnut Street, Ithaca NY 14850. Showtime is 7:30 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 4 pm on Sundays.

In keeping with Civic Ensemble’s mission that theatre be accessible for all, there is a range of ticketing options. Advance reservations are available at flexible prices of either $20, $15, or $10. These can be reserved online at Free tickets will be available at the venue on the day of performance, 30 minutes before curtain. If you have any questions about ticketing, please call 607-241-0195.

This production is funded by Civic Ensemble season sponsor William Martin and a grant from the Park Foundation, plus co-sponsors Kitchen Theatre Company and Lehman Alternative Community School.

Civic Ensemble is a non-profit theatre company serving Ithaca and Tompkins County that produces new plays by or about women and people of color, re-imaginings of classics, and community-based plays that explore and explode the social, political, and cultural issues of our time. Through the production of plays, after-school and in-school education programs for young people, and civic engagement programs with Ithaca community members, the company works to bring audiences of different races, classes, and experiences together in a public forum on the American experiment.

The cast: Jelani Pitcher, Brianna Ford, and Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. Photo credit: Danielle Stoffregen.

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.