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How, Voza Rivers, a steward of African American theater, introduced South African theater to Harlem

2018-11-14 03:02
clip1 - 0:19 I've been operating in Harlem for 7 decades. [title] Voza Rivers is a leading producer and documentary filmmaker. He got his start in Harlem, and to this day has been helping bolster the neighborhood through the arts. Clip 2 - 6:53 What happened and what changed my life and what changed theater in this community is that there was a young man from South Africa who was a student with a person named Stephen Biko. [TITLE] Stephen Biko was an anti-apartheid activist who was killed in police detention. 8:00 That meeting with Duma changed my life because he introduced me to South African theater. In the 20 years with Roger I had laid and been a part of the foundation of African American theater, learning all the players and writers and scripts about black culture in the United States. Duma opened me up to another world. (cut) 8:37 I saw two actors who were phenomenal, they were down in the Village. I went to see the play with my group and I had never seen acting like that before. (cut) 8:52 The two actors said, 'You know what? We've been here 6 months, we won all these awards, and we haven't seen any black people. What's happening?' 9:09 They said, 'Well, we want to be where our people are. Can you get us into your little theater?' - well, he didn't say little. I said, 'My theater's only 99 seats!' He said, 'Man, in South Africa, we perform for 30 people.' (cut) clip 3 - 0:19 I brought those 2 actors up to Harlem. They performed. The New York Times came, and the NYT who reviewed them downtown said oh my God, it's like another show. The actors were possessed, they thought they were in South Africa, they felt like they were in South Africa, they saw so many people of color. The NYT put the article on the front page of the weekend section - From South Africa to Harlem. And the people from downtown who had already seen it, some of the heads of the major theaters said, let's go up to see what the difference is and they came and they saw, and they said ‘Oh my God, this is unbelievable.’ (cut) 1:10 Joseph Papp who ran The Public Theater, Shakespeare in the Park, he saw the play the people who were running Lincoln Center Theater came the woman who owned the theater down in the Village where the actors were originally performing, Lucille Lortel, she came, and others, through that relationship, people were very interested in what's next.