(born 11 June 1932) is a South African
playwright, novelist, actor, and director who writes in , best known for his political plays opposing the South African system of apartheid
and for the 2005 Academy-Award winning film
of his novel Tsotsi
, directed by Gavin Hood
. He is an adjunct professor of playwriting, acting, and directing in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of California, San Diego
. For academic year 2000–2001, he was the IU Class of 1963 Wells Scholar Professor at Indiana University
, in Bloomington, Indiana
. The recipient of many awards, honors, and honorary degrees
, including the 2005 Order of Ikhamanga in Silver "for his excellent contribution and achievements in the theatre" from the government of South Africa,
he is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
Athol Fugard was born as Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard, in Middelburg, Eastern Cape, South Africa, on 11 June 1932, to English and Afrikaner parents; his mother, Elizabeth Magdalena (née Potgieter), an Afrikaner, operated first a general store and then a lodging house; his father, Harold, was a disabled former jazz pianist of Irish, English and French Huguenot descent. In 1935, his family moved to Port Elizabeth. In 1938, he began attending primary school at Marist Brothers College, a private Catholic school founded by the Marist Brothers; after being awarded a scholarship, he enrolled at a local technical college for secondary education and then matriculated at the University of Cape Town, but he dropped out of the university in 1953, a few months before final examinations. He left home, hitchhiked to North Africa with a friend, and then spent the next two years working in the Far East on a steamer ship, the SS Graigaur," where he began writing, an experience "celebrated" in his 1999 autobiographical play The Captain's Tiger: A Memoir for the Stage.
In September 1956, he married Sheila Meiring, a University of Capetown Drama School student whom he had met the previous year. Now known as Sheila Fugard, she is a novelist and poet, and the Fugards' daughter, Lisa Fugard, is also a novelist.
The Fugards moved to Johannesburg in 1958, where he worked as a clerk in a "Native Commissioners' Court," which "made him keenly aware of the injustices of apartheid." The political impetus of Fugard's plays brought him into conflict with the national government; in order to avoid prosecution, he would have his plays produced and published outside of South Africa.
He and his wife live in San Diego, California, where he teaches as an adjunct professor of playwriting, acting, and directing in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and maintain a residence in South Africa.
In 1958, Fugard organized "a multiracial theatre for which he wrote, directed, and acted," writing and producing several plays for it, including No-Good Friday (1958) and Nongogo (1959), in which he and his colleague black South African actor Zakes Mokae performed.
After returning to Port Elizabeth in the early 1960s, Athol and Sheila Fugard started The Circle Players, which derives its name from their influential production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertolt Brecht.
In 1961, in Johannesburg, Fugard and Mokae starred as the brothers Morris and Zachariah in the single-performance world première of Fugard's play The Blood Knot (revised and retitled Blood Knot in 1987).
In 1962, Fugard publicly supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement (1959–1994), an international boycott of South African theatres due to their segregated audiences, leading to government restrictions on him and surveillance of him and his theatre by the Secret Police, and leading him to have his plays published and produced outside of South Africa.
Lucille Lortel produced The Blood Knot at the Cricket Theatre, Off Broadway, in New York City, in 1964, "launch[ing]" Fugard's "American career."
In the 1960s, Fugard formed the Serpent Players, whose name derives from their first venue, the former snake pit at the zoo, "a group of black actors worker-players who earned their living as teachers, clerks, and industrial workers, and cannot thus be considered amateurs in the manner of leisured whites," developing and performing plays "under surveillance of the Security Police."
Their plays utilized minimalist sets and props improvised from whatever materials were available; often staged in black areas for a night, the cast would move on to the next venue, such as a dimly-lit church hall or community center, where the audience consisted of poor migrant labourers and the residents of hostels in the townships.
According to Kruger,
the Serpent Players used Brecht's elucidation of gestic acting, dis-illusion, and social critique, as well as their own experience of the satiric comic routines of urban African vaudeville, to explore the theatrical force of Brecht's techniques, as well as the immediate political relevance of a play about land distribution. Their work on the Caucasian Chalk Circle and, a year later, on Antigone led directly to the creation, in 1966, of what is still  South Africa's most distinctive Lehrstück [learning play]: The Coat. Based on an incident at one of the many political trials involving the Serpent Players, The Coat dramatized the choices facing a woman whose husband, convicted of anti-apartheid political activity, left her only a coat and instructions to use it.
In The Coat, Kruger observes, "The participants were engaged not only in representing social relationships on stage but also on enacting and revising their own dealings with each other and with institutions of apartheid oppression from the law courts downward," and "this engagement testified to the real power of Brecht's apparently utopian plan to abolish the separation of player and audience and to make of each player a 'statesman' or social actor.... Work on The Coat led indirectly to the Serpent Players' most famous and most Brechtian productions, Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973)."
Fugard developed these two plays for the Serpent Players in workshops, working extensively with John Kani and Winston Ntshona, publishing them in 1974 with his own play Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (1972). The authorities considered the title of The Island, which alludes to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was being held, too controversial, so Fugard and the Serpent Players used the alternative title The Hodoshe Span (Hodoshe being slang for prison work gang).
These plays "evinced a Brecthian attention to the demonstration of gest and social situations and encouraged audiences to analyze rather than merely applaud the action"; for example, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, which "combined Brechtian critique and vaudevillian irony – especially in Kani's virtuoso improvisation – even provoked an African audience's critical interruption and interrogation of the action." While dramatizing frustrations in the lives of his audience members, the plays simultanously drew them into the action and attempted to have them analyze the situations of the characters in Brechtian fashion, according to Kruger.
Blood Knot was filmed by the BBC Television in 1967, with Fugard's collaboration, starring the Jamaican actor, Charles Hyatt as Zachariah and Fugard himself as Morris, as in the original 1961 première in Johannesburg. Less pleased than Fugard, the South African government of B. J. Vorster confiscated Fugard's passport. Four years later, in 1971, partially as the result of international protest on his behalf, the South African travel restrictions against Fugard eased, allowing him to fly to England again, in order to direct Boesman and Lena.
Master Harold...and the Boys, written in 1982, incorporates "strong autobiographical matter"; nonetheless "it is fiction, not memoir," as Cousins: A Memoir and some of Fugard's other works are subtitled.
Fugard demonstrates that he opposes injustices committed by both the government and by its chief political opposition in his play My Children! My Africa!, which attacks the ANC for deciding to boycott African schools, based on recognition of the damage that boycott would cause a generation of African pupils.
His post-apartheid plays, such as Valley Song, The Captain's Tiger: A Memoir for the Stage and his latest play, Victory (2007), focus more on personal issues than on political issues.
Fugard's plays are produced internationally, have won multiple awards, and several have been made into films, including among their actors Fugard himself.
His film debut as a director occurred in 1992, when he co-directed the adaptation of his play The Road to Mecca with Peter Goldsmid, who also wrote the screenplay.
The film adaptation of his novel Tsotsi (Afrikaans for hoodlum), written and directed by Gavin Hood, won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.
- (in chronological order of first production and/or publication)
- Statements: [Three Plays]. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1974. ISBN 0192113852 (10). ISBN 9780192113856 (13). ISBN 0192811703 (10). ISBN 9780192811707 (13). [Co-authored with John Kani and Winston Ntshona; see below.)
- Three Port Elizabeth Plays: Blood Knot; Hello and Goodbye; and Boesman and Lena. Oxford and New York, 1974. ISBN 0192113666.
- Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island. New York: Viking Press, 1976. ISBN 0670647845
- Dimetos and Two Early Plays. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1977. ISBN 0192113909.
- Boesman and Lena and Other Plays. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1980. ISBN 0195701976.
- Selected Plays of Fugard: Notes. Ed. Dennis Walder. London: Longman, 1980. Beirut: York Press, 1980. ISBN 0582781299.
- A Lesson from Aloes: A Play. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1981.
- Marigolds in August. A. D. Donker, 1982. ISBN 086852008X.
- Boesman and Lena. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1983. ISBN 0195703316.
- People Are Living There. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1983. ISBN 0195703324.
- Master Harold...and the Boys. New York and London: Penguin, 1984. ISBN 0140481877.
- The Road to Mecca: A Play in Two Acts. London: Faber and Faber, 1985. ISBN 0571136915. [Suggested by the life and work of Helen Martins of New Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa.]
- Selected Plays. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1987. ISBN 0192819291. [Includes: Master Harold...and the Boys; Blood Knot (new version); Hello and Goodbye; Boesman and Lena.]
- A Place with the Pigs: A Personal Parable. London: Faber and Faber, 1988. ISBN 0571151140.
- My Children! My Africa! and Selected Shorter Plays. Ed. and introd., Stephen Gray. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand UP, 1990. ISBN 1868141179.
- Blood Knot and Other Plays. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1991. ISBN 1559360194.
- Playland and Other Worlds. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand UP, 1992. ISBN 1868142191.
- The Township Plays. Ed. and introd. Dennis Walder. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1993. ISBN 0192829254 (10). ISBN 9780192829252 (13). [Includes: No-good Friday, Nongogo, The Coat, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, and The Island.]
- Cousins: A Memoir, Johannesburg: Witwatersrand UP, 1994. ISBN 1868142787.
- Hello and Goodbye. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1994. ISBN 0195710991.
- Valley Song. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. ISBN 0571179088.
- The Captain's Tiger: A Memoir for the Stage. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand UP, 1997. ISBN 1868143244.
- Athol Fugard: Plays. London: Faber and Faber, 1998. ISBN 0571190936.
- Interior Plays. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2000. ISBN 0192880357.
- Port Elizabeth Plays. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2000. ISBN 0192825291.
- Sorrows and Rejoicings. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2002. ISBN 1559362081.
- Exits and Entrances. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2004. ISBN 0822220415.Co-authored with John Kani and Winston Ntshona
- Statements: [Three Plays]. 1974. By Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. Rev. ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1978. ISBN 0192811703 (10). ISBN 9780192811707 (13). ["Two workshop productions devised by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona, and a new play"; includes: Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island, and Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act.]Co-authored with Ross Devenish
- The Guest: An Episode in the Life of Eugene Marais. By Athol Fugard and Ross Devenish. Craighall: A. D. Donker, 1977. ISBN 0949937363. (Die besoeker: 'n episode in die lewe van Eugene Marais. Trans. into Afrikaans by Wilma Stockenstrom. Craighall: A. D. Donker, 1977. ISBN 0949937436.)
Films adapted from Fugard's plays and novel
Selected awards and nominations
- The Amajuba Resource Pack. The Oxford Playhouse and Farber Foundry: In Association with Mmabana Arts Foundation. Oxford Playhouse, Oct. 2004. Accessed 1 Oct. 2008. Downloadable PDF. ["Photographs by Robert Day; Written by Rachel G. Briscoe; Edited by Rupert Rowbotham; Overseen by Yael Farber." 18 pages.]
- Athol Fugard. Special issue of Twentieth Century Literature 39.4 (Winter 1993). Index Findarticles.com. . Accessed 4 Oct. 2008. [Includes: Athol Fugard, "Some Problems of a Playwright from South Africa" (Transcript. 11 pages.]
- Blumberg, Marcia Shirley, and Dennis Walder, eds. South African Theatre As/and Intervention. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Editions Rodopi B.V., 1999. ISBN 9042005378 (10). ISBN 9789042005372 (13).
- Fugard, Athol. A Lesson from Aloes. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1989. ISBN 1559360011 (10). ISBN 9781559360012 (13). Google Books. Accessed 1 Oct. 2008. (Limited preview available.)
- –––, and Chris Boyd. "Athol Fugard on Tsotsi, Truth and Reconciliation, Camus, Pascal and 'courageous pessimism'...." The Morning After: Performing Arts in Australia (Blog). WordPress. 29 Jan. 2006. Accessed 4 Oct. 2008. ["An edited interview with South African playwright Athol Fugard (in San Diego) on the publication of his only novel Tsotsi in Australia, January 29, 2006."]
- –––, and Serena Davies. "My Week: Athol Fugard" The Telegraph 8 Apr. 2007. Accessed 29 Sept. 2008. [The playwright describes his week to Serena Davies, prior to the opening of his play Victory at the Theatre Royal, Bath (telephone interview).]
- Gray, Stephen. Athol Fugard. Johannesburg and New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. ISBN 0074506331 (10). ISBN 9780074506332 (13). ISBN 0074506153 (10). ISBN 9780074506158 (13).
- –––, ed. and introd. File on Fugard. London: Methuen Drama, 1991. ISBN 0413645800 (10). ISBN 978-0413645807 (13).
- –––. My Children! My Africa! and Selected Shorter Plays, by Athol Fugard. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand UP, 1990. ISBN 1868141179.
- Kruger, Loren. Post-Imperial Brecht Politics and Performance, East and South. Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 2004. ISBN 0521817080 (10). ISBN 9780521817080 (13). (Google Books; limited preview available.)
- McDonald, Marianne. "A Gift for His Seventieth Birthday: Athol Fugard's Sorrows and Rejoicings" Department of Theatre and Dance. University of California, San Diego. Rpt. from TheatreForum 21 (Summer/Fall 2002). Accessed 2 Oct. 2008.
- McLuckie, Craig (Okanagan College). "Athol Fugard (1932–)" The Literary Encyclopedia. 8 Oct. 2003. Accessed 29 Sept. 2008.
- Morris, Stephen Leigh. "Falling Sky: Athol Fugard's Victory" LA Weekly 31 Jan. 2008. Accessed 29 Sept. 2008. (Theatre rev. of the American première at the The Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles, California.)
- Spencer, Charles. "Victory: The Fight's Gone Out of Fugard" The Telegraph 17 Aug. 2007. Accessed 30 Sept. 2008. [Theatre rev. of Victory at the Theatre Royal, Bath.]
- Walder, Dennis. Athol Fugard. Writers and Their Work. Tavistock: Northcote House in association with the British Council, 2003. ISBN 0746309481 (10). ISBN 9780746309483 (13).
- Wertheim, Albert. The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard: From South Africa to the World. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000. ISBN 0253338239 (10). ISBN 978-0253338235 (13).
- –––, ed. and introd. Athol Fugard: A Casebook. [Casebooks on Modern Dramatists]. Gen. Ed., Kimball King. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0815307454 (10). ISBN 9780815307457 (13). (Out of print; unavailable.) [Hardcover ed. published by Garland Publishing; the series of Casebooks on Modern Dramatists is now published by Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis, and does not include this title.]
- "Athol Fugard" Faculty profile. Department of Theatre and Dance. University of California, San Diego. (Lists Athol Fugard: Statements: An Athol Fugard site by Iain Fisher as "Personal Website"; see below.)
- Athol Fugard at the Internet Movie Database.
- Athol Fugard at the Internet Off-Broadway Database (IOBDb).
- Athol Fugard at Times Topics in The New York Times. (Includes YouTube Video clip of Athol Fugard's Burke Lecture "A Catholic Antigone: An Episode in the Life of Hildegard of Bingen", the Eugene M. Burke C.S.P. Lectureship on Religion and Society, at the University of California, San Diego, introduced by Professor of Theatre and Classics Marianne McDonald, UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, April 2003 [Show ID: 7118]. 1:28:57 [duration].)
- Athol Fugard at WorldCat.
- "Athol Fugard Biography" – "Athol Fugard", rpt. by bookrags.com (Ambassadors Group, Inc.) from the Encyclopedia of World Biography. ("©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.")
- Athol Fugard (1932– )" at Britannica Online Encyclopedia (subscription based; free trial available).
- "Athol Fugard (1932– )" – Complete Guide to Playwright and Plays at Doolee.com.
- Athol Fugard: Statements: An Athol Fugard site by Iain Fisher. (Listed as "Personal Website" in UCSB faculty profile; see above.)
- "Books by Athol Fugard" at Google Books (several with limited previews available).
- "Full Profile: Mr Athol 'Lanigan' Fugard" in Who's Who of Southern Africa. © Copyright 2007 24.com (Media24). (Includes hyperlinked "News Articles" from 2000 to 2008.)
- "Interviews: South Africa's Fugards: Writing About Wrongs" Morning Edition. National Public Radio. NPR RealAudio. 16 June 2006. (With hyperlinked "Related NPR stories" from 2001 to 2006.)