ROUNDABOUT BLOG

The Road to Mecca

 

We in the theater are prone to exaggeration. A good play gets called brilliant, a so-so performance gets called a disaster, and a minor incident becomes an epic crisis. But even knowing this tendency, I feel no hesitation in sharing with you what director Gordon Edelstein said at the first rehearsal for The Road to Mecca. “Athol Fugard,” he stated, “is a playwright whose work genuinely changed the world.” Honestly, that sounds pretty accurate to me.

We often think of political playwrights as those who write angry screeds and twist them uncomfortably into drama, leaving the audience to be lectured at for a couple of hours by characters who are mere mouthpieces for the dramatist. Or perhaps we think of political plays as epics, taking on a wide swath of characters and events to squeeze as much as possible onto the stage in one evening. But Athol Fugard defies these trends. Yes, he writes about his native South Africa, and most of his work takes place against the backdrop of apartheid with characters facing racial bias, segregation, and the AIDS epidemic. But rather than yell at the audience or try to put all of his views on stage at one time, he has slowly built up a body of work that is both fearless in its politics and stunning in its emotional impact.

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2011-2012 Season, From Todd Haimes, The Road to Mecca


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The Road to Creation

Posted on: December 13th, 2011 by Education @ Roundabout

 

“Instead she did something which small minds and small souls can never forgive…she dared to be different!” – Elsa about Miss Helen

The Road to Mecca is inspired by the true life story of Helen Elizabeth Martins, the youngest of six children, born and raised in the small South African village of Nieu Bethesda in December, 1897. Martins obtained her teacher's diploma in nearby Graaff-Reinet and moved to the Transvaal region to become a teacher.  In 1920 she married Johannes Pienaar, a teacher, playwright, and politician. The marriage was troubled, and it ended in 1926. Little is known about Martins in the years during or immediately following her marriage.

In the 1930s, Martins returned to Nieu Bethesda to take care of her elderly parents. Her invalid mother died in 1941 and her father died in 1945, leaving Martins isolated in the remote village with little prospects of her own.  One night, as she laid ill in bed, depressed about her dull and grey existence, she resolved to find a way to bring light and color into her life.  This decision lead to a lifelong artistic quest to transform her environment.

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Related Categories:
2011-2012 Season, Education @ Roundabout, The Road to Mecca, Upstage


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Context & Terms: The Road to Mecca

Posted on: December 13th, 2011 by Education @ Roundabout

 

Aasvoelkrans: A mountain in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Marius says that this mountain made him in awe of South Africa.

Albert Camus: French author, journalist, and important philosopher of the 20th century.

Elsa quotes Albert Camus to Miss Helen when she is trying to get a point across that Miss Helen needs to find the strength to say “no”.

Baas: Master; a term of address used in South Africa for a white man.

The woman that Elsa helps by giving her a lift was thrown out of her town by the Baas.

Honoré de Balzac: French journalist and writer, he is one of the creators of realism in literature.

Elsa uses one of Balzac’s quotes to describe the Karoo “God without Mankind.”

Blue-stocking: An intellectual or literary woman.

Elsa refers to herself as a blue-stocking because she believes everyone sees her as a “serious young woman.”

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Related Categories:
2011-2012 Season, Education @ Roundabout, The Road to Mecca, Upstage


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