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U.S./ Rooftop stage Gurira's "In the Continuum"
October 20, 2011
actress and playwright Danai Gurira's play, "In the
Continuum," will feature at Harare's Theatre in the
Park November 22-26 as the United States Embassy and Rooftop
Promotions partner to commemorate World AIDS Day (December 1).
The production is funded by the U.S. President's Plan for
Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has committed $57 million
dollars to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe in 2011.
why I am here is because we are auditioning some Zimbabwean women
to perform in the play," said Gurira, American-Zimbabwean
actress and playwright during a public discussion on Tuesday. The
play, which was co-authored by Nikkole Salter, tells parallel stories
of two women: Abigail Murambe, a Zimbabwean journalist; and Nia
James, a teenager who has been living in Los Angeles shelters and
foster homes since she was kicked out of her mother's house.
Though they never meet, and they never enter each other's
worlds, their stories are similar. Both Nia and Abigail find out
they are pregnant. The two women also discover that they have contracted
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. They must face their respective
partners with this news knowing that contracting HIV/AIDS, especially
for women, can mean being ostracized by family, friends and community,
and enduring emotional as well as physical hardships.
The play has only been
performed in Zimbabwe in 2006 at the Harare International Festival
of the Arts (HIFA) but it has won numerous awards internationally.
For the play, Gurira won a 2006 Obie Award, the 2006 Outer Critics
John Gassner Award, and the 2004 Global Tolerance' Award (Friends
of the United Nations), in addition to being honored by the Theatre
Hall of Fame. In 2007, she received a Helen Hayes Award for Best
Lead Actress in "In the Continuum" at Woolly Mammoth
Theater in Washington, DC.
Speaking at the weekly
public Food for Thought discussion series at the U.S. Embassy's
Public Affairs Section in Eastgate Mall, Harare, on Tuesday, Gurira
said she was impressed by the success of the play in the U.S. and
to see that other women have picked it up and other productions
have been made based on it," said Gurira. She added that the
play allowed her, "to step out in front of the world as a
professional actor." She further noted, "The play rolled
out in such a way that it was very unusual, and so people always
ask us how a mere class project could be such a phenomenal success."
After co-creating the work, Gurira performed in it off-Broadway
and toured the U.S. and Southern Africa.
Its success has surprised
her and she admitted having been asked about the formula at a number
of fora. She says there is no formula. "We created this play,
people liked it and took it places," said Gurira who has also
starred with Oscar-nominated actor Richard Jenkins in the acclaimed
film, 'The Visitor.'
"I basically built
on what I was learning at my graduate school in my final year,"
Gurira told the audience which included inquisitive A level students
from Arundel High School. A dedicated work ethic, she told the students,
is the key to success in the highly competitive theater and film
Gurira demonstrated her
remarkable talent as an actor and playwright, featuring in films
3 Backyards (Sundance 2010), My Soul to keep (Wes Craven, October
2010) and Restless City (Sundance 2011). She has also appeared in
the TV shows, "Law and Order," "Life on Mars,"
"Lie to Me," and has a recurring role on HBO's
plays include "Eclipsed," which explores five Liberian
women's experiences during the civil war. The play was produced
at several leading U.S. theater houses including the Wooly Mammoth,
Center Theater Group and Yale Repertory Theater. It won Best New
play at the 2010 Helen Hayes Awards, and Gurira won Best Playwright
at the NAACP Theater Awards in August 2011.
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