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Arts and Entertainment

Last week to see ‘Sizwe Bansi is Dead’
CAST production of award-winning play ends March 15
Published Wednesday, March 12, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

Ron McClelland (left) stars with Devin Clark in the award-winning play "Swansi Bansi is Dead." McClelland said playing the role of Bansi has been his dream for over 25 years.

The play “Sizwe Bansi is Dead” wraps its three-week run at Carolina Actors Studio Theater this weekend, with a final performance March 15.


Set in 1972 Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the play offers a unique glimpse into life during the country’s notorious apartheid era. The lead character, Sizwe Bansi, leaves home in the hopes of finding work only to find that his time to find a job expired before his search even began.

“This play shows, at a very personal level, one man’s struggle to provide for his family and to maintain a sense of dignity and a sense of worth in a system that dehumanizes and makes a person feel less than a man,” said actor Ron McClelland, who plays Bansi.

McClelland said that although the play is set over 40 years ago, its message is universal.

“It’s still relevant today because of what we see happening even in the United States,” he said. “People are trying to find some means to simply provide for their families in a system that seems to be biased against the weak, being disenfranchised minorities in general.”

McClelland said too often people forget history and underestimate its ability to repeat itself.

“No matter where or in what country that past has happened, if we are not careful to remember some of these atrocities, they can be repeated,” he said. “We see some of the same dynamics [of apartheid] incrementally beginning to develop within our own country.”

McClelland pointed to issues of immigration and voter suppression and disenfranchisement as examples.

Athol Fugard, who Time magazine once called “the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world,” co-wrote the play with two South African actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona. Kani and Ntshona starred in the original production and won Tony Awards for their performances when the play debuted on Broadway in 1974. Upon their return to South Africa, both men were jailed for their depictions of the Afrikaner National Party.

McClelland said that playing Swize Bansi has been a dream of his for more than 25 years, since he first learned of the struggles of Nelson Mandela and his movement for change and equality in South Africa.

The play is billed as “a story about dreams, sacrifice and human rights,” and McClellon said he hopes that the audience will walk away just as inspired as he was by the themes explored.

“We are hoping they will walk away seeing the importance of taking similar stances as we see injustices taking place within our own families,” he said.

Visit www.nccast.com for more information about the play or to purchase tickets. 


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