While I was a student at Valparaiso University in the early 1990s, the subject of apartheid in Africa was a hot topic of campus debate and discussion.
"Apartheid" is the term for "the system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments, who were the ruling party from 1948 to 1994."
I remember students had an event and erected a "shanty" in the middle of one of the grassy fields on campus with signage to draw attention to the issue. During the night, it "mysteriously" burned, fueling further accusations and debate.
It's an involved and difficult subject to understand, based on the long and intricate history of struggle.
For Black History Month, Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier is including the theme and events of apartheid as a stage subject for the annual World Stage Series by hosting the world premiere of "Cadre," through the weekend in the Upstairs Theater space.
From Chicago, it goes right to Johannesburg for a much anticipated run March 18 to April 14 at The Market Theatre of Johannesburg.
Written by Omphile Molusi, it stars a hard-working and talented cast of three who slip in and out of various roles.
Inspired by true events in the life of an activist during, and after, the apartheid era, it opens in 1964 and reveals the consequences of change in a fledgling democracy and explores the journey of a young South African man struggling to navigate his way through the tumultuous political landscape of apartheid.
Soldiering through the perils of a country consumed by war, he desperately clings to the memory of his first love and the hope of a sweet reunion with many surprising twists and turns along the way.
"Cadre" is described as "a personal tale of dreams and change, honoring families, friends and all the unsung heroes who died hoping for a better future."
The cast is comprised of wonderful Lillian Tshabalala who seamlessly moves between roles of a young girl and a mother figure with complete transformation. Writer Molusi, one of South Africa's leading young theater artists, plays the young lead character with spirit and soul, while Sello Motloung takes on duties as "the heavy" playing both a stern father and also cruel military leader.
Molusi was the first recipient of the Royal Shakespeare Company/Baxter Theatre Brett Goldin Bursary Award, which earned the young playwright a life-changing scholarship to study with the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Presented with Richard Jordan Productions in association with The Market Theatre of Johannesburg and the Adelaide Festival of Arts, tickets are $20 at (312) 595-5600 or at chicagoshakes.com.