ZakesMokae

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Steve Bornfeld, Las Vegas Weekly, 28 June 2005. Photo by Keith Shimada

He's not a traditional, concept-driven director... He wants to know what we are, for us to be the people who do the play, to use raw materials we bring, rather than applying materials to us. It was unsettling, but became so liberating, like flying, soaring, sinking into some amazing Jacuzzi.

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Naledi Theatre Awards Ceremony 13 Feb 2005

A moving highlight of the evening was the presentation of "Life-Time Achievement Awards" to no less than 15 stalwarts of our SA stages: Lilian Dube, Smal Ndaba, Phyllis Klotz, John Kani, Winston Ntshona, Fiona Fraser, Wilna Snyman, Michael McCabe, Neels Hansen, Joyce Levinsohn, Nomhla Nkonyeni, Dale Cutts, (who is recovering from a recent stroke), returned exile, Zakes Mokae, and a posthumous award to Dolly Rathebe, which was accepted by her son.

click for link Ken White, Review-Journal, 7 Mar 2003

Interview with the actors being directed by Mokae in Road to Mecca.

"Doing a Fugard play with Zakes Mokae is nirvana... other people can talk academically about Fugard, but Zakes developed Fugard's works with Fugard... Mokae is a real actors' director....His approach is organic."

 

click for link City Stages News, March-April, 2003

About Road to Mecca.

Zakes is such a jolly fellow and has such deep personal insights into the play and its relevance in contemporary times, that it felt right to plan a 2003 production.
 

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Erin Auerbach, Las Vegas Mercury 20 Mar 2003
The Road to Mecca

Nevada Shakespeare Company brings this vibrant character to life under Zakes Mokae's thoughtful direction. In fact, the outstanding performance just about overcomes some major flaws in the over-indulgent playwriting, creating a satisfying evening of theater...

There's a chaotic sense of two women at major crossroads in their lives, which director Zakes Mokae weaves together beautifully. Their impatience and excitement around each other when Elsa first arrives feels natural and brings out the potential in Fugard's writing...

Luckily, the fluid direction saves the play and makes you look at all that is beautiful about life, even in the midst of all that's perilous in the world around us. More importantly, you leave wanting to learn more about Helen Martins, the sculptures she made, and why creativity can often invoke fear and scorn rather than praise and enlightenment...

 Zakes Mokae direction of The Road to Mecca
Photo by Ginger Mikkelsen
 

click for link Pianosa Group

About the play Blood Knot.

Zach and Morris escape into their game-playing and live in their dreams. But, they ruefully admit, white South Africans "don't like our playing games with their whiteness"; and, they observe, if they ever want to arrest you, "all they need for evidence is a man's dream's."

 

click for link Neon, Ken White, 12 Mar 1999
Mokae as stage director.

"No, no, I'm more into directing now," says Mokae during a recent rehearsal. "I leave acting to the actors. I've been acting for too long. It makes sense for me now to move from acting to directing."

He hedges a bit, saying if a good role comes along he'll probably do it. But he seems to have been bitten by the directing bug. "It's about sharing ideas when you direct," Mokae says. "I like to work with actors. Being an actor myself makes it easy."

What isn't easy is the hard work that goes into preparing for a role. Mokae likes to do a lot of table readings and pre-rehearsal work before blocking the action and getting the play on its feet. With the proper preparation, "when they ask you questions in rehearsals, you're able to give them an answer that is satisfactory to them," Mokae says. "It's fun but it's a lot of work."

 

click for link Ken White, Las Vegas Review, 16 Aug 2002 (link has gone)

Mokae directing Bryan Harnetiaux´s play National Pastimes.

Mokae is quoted as saying: "It has something to say.. It's about a guy who achieved what he wanted to achieve. For me, apart from the politics, it was interesting because baseball people really get involved in the sport."

 

click for link Ken White, Las Vegas Review, 18 Feb 2001

Zakes Mokae photo by Ken White.

There are good actors here [Southern Nevada ]. But we need a theater here and we need it badly," Mokae says.

To that end, he is trying to establish what he calls the Theater Lab, in which there would be not only performances of a variety of material, but also workshops in writing, acting and all aspects of technical theater that he sees as a way to get younger people involved in the arts.

It requires a building for starters, which can be built or an existing building renovated into a theater. Mokae has been scouting for a location and seeking money to get the company started. He figures it will take $250,000 to run the company for the first year.

"It just needs to be pushed a little," he says. "It can be done."

 

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Leonard Greene, Boston Herald 4 Jun 1996
Memories of Cocky Two Bull Tlhotlhalamaje.

Tlhotlhalamaje has spent more days than he can remember on Eloff Street. When he was coming up with Hugh Masekela, Zakes Mokae and a host of other South African performers, he spent endless nights in jam sessions at the Dorkay House, South Africa's answer to Harlem's Apollo Theater.
 

click for link Metro, 1995
In Seven Guitars.

"In another strong performance in an exceptional cast, actor Zakes Mokae commands attention with an intense conviction to character when ranting about a mythical man who'll bring him riches, his dream of owning his own plantation and an episode in which he confesses to killing a man who made fun of his birth name."

 

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Iris Fanger, Boston Herald 15 Sep 1995
Seven Guitars

Seven Guitars takes place in 1948, when three musicians are trying to make their way from Pittsburgh to Chicago to cut another record. But for their leader, Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, the sands of a lifetime have run out.

The seven characters - the musicians, their women and a mysterious neighbor - speak in an eloquent poetic vernacular of the backyard where they come together. The words that Wilson has given them carry both the resonance of their heritage and the cadence of the blues, tangled up in the longing of the spirit. These are people who have done without for too long, and now their needs must be considered. The dialogue is at once simple and profound.

Keith David makes an edgy Barton; Zakes Mokae a mesmerizing presence as Hedley, the Bible-chanting, visionary figure of doom. When they sink more fully into their roles, they will be Tony Award nominees for sure.

 

link is now offline TIME Domestic, 3 Jan 1994 (link has gone)
In The Song of Jacob Zulu.

A short reference "Yourgrau's play about the making of a black South African terrorist was raw but unforgettable in Eric Simonson's epic staging, brought to Broadway by Chicago's Steppenwolf troupe. K.Todd Freeman glowed in the title role, Zakes Mokae excelled as several elders...".

 

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Gerald Weales, Commonweal 7 May 1993

A review of The Song of Jacob Zulu.

For the most part the characters lack depth, are more types than individuals, and the brief scenes that recount Jacob's growing involvement with rebellion are little more than illustrative moments. These limitations would be fatal to a realistic political play, but that was never what playwright Tug Yourgrau intended to write. He wanted a musical chorus of some kind and that happily is what he got when Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined Yourgrau and director Eric Simonson to create the work at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 1992... In a few cases--notably Zakes Mokae, who plays Jacob's austere but loving father, the man who betrays him, and a strange tramp-prophet who tries to persuade him to return to his family---individual actors stand out from the company, but for the most part they provide the setting for Freeman's Jacob and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

 

click for link Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Are you still working with Zakes Mokae?

Oh, yes. He called me from Los Angeles a few days ago and left a message on my machine. Zakes is very much part of my life. I've just spoken of celebrating, and your question gives me a chance to share with you one of the greatest celebrations I've ever had. Some twenty-nine years ago, after an apprenticeship, I found my voice and realized what sort of theatre I wanted to do with a play called The Blood Knot. It involves two characters, two brothers, one light-skinned, one dark-skinned. Nobody wanted to do that play except me and an actor called Zakes Mokae. Neither of us had much theatre experience, but we sorted out the traffic, we learned the lines, we got together a few props, and we did that play in an attic space in downtown Johannesburg. That was the start of it for Zakes and myself. And I had this extraordinary experience, three or four years ago, of being on a Broadway stage: the same play, the same Zakes Mokae. In a business like theatre, which is not known for the longevity of its relationships, the amount of love that prevails among its practitioners, that really was something. But then again, you see, so typical of South Africa and its capacity to serve up paradoxes. Yes, Zakes Mokae is and will always be a part of my life.

 

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Sheila Fugard Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Nongogo also gave Zakes Mokae his first real chance at acting. He was to become an influence, especially when he played with Athol in the ground-breaking The Blood Knot.

 

click for link Mary Benson Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Immediately, however, he had to decide whether to direct or to play Boesman. In South Africa he had encompassed both, but in London the strain might be too great. He chose to direct Zakes Mokae, who had taken over the role from James Earl Jones in the Off-Broadway production, would be Boesman, freshly challenged by Athol's direction. Besides, Zakes's blackness, and his performance potentially so different from Athol's, would in turn challenge the white actress, Yvonne Bryceland, a magnificent Lena in the South African production.

 

click for link Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

When the play opened in Johannesburg, after its New York premiere, Joseph Lelyveld compared the two Sams--Zakes Mokae in New York and John Kani in Johannesburg. "Mr. Mokae's Sam was a large and complex presence on the stage, self-liberated and expansive. Mr. Kani's Sam is taut and inward, strained when he laughs and never, it seems, unmindful of the tense racial context." I will have to take Lelyveld's description of Kani on faith, but his account of Mokae's performance is accurate enough--and yet not complete. The slightly chubby Mokae, who danced with such grace at the beginning of the play, moved with the same precision at the end, but with leaden reluctance in his steps. "Little man you're crying," the song says, and Vaughan is singing for both Sam and Hally.

 

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Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Yet at the same time Pogrund introduced him to a remarkably talented group of people in Sophiatown, including Lewis Nkosi, Bloke Modisane, Can Themba, Ken Gampu, and, most important of all, an untrained bit-part film actor, Zakes Mokae. Fugard cast Mokae as a township thug in No-Good Friday, and then wrote the role of Blackie, Queenie's crippled and violent hanger-on in Nongogo, especially for him, and this, Fugard said, "was the start of one of the really rich working relationships of my life" (Benson "Keeping" 78).

Fugard and Mokae actually met through the nonracial artists' equity association, the Union of South African Artists--or Union Artists, as it became when it acquired Dorkay House, the ex-clothing factory where township talent was presented before mainly white audiences in Johannesburg during the late 1950s. Johannesburg-born and bred, Mokae had attended St. Peter's Anglican school in Rosettenville, where he came to know the Superintendent, Father Trevor Huddleston, on whom Father Higgins in No-Good Friday was modeled, and who had formed a jazz band to which Mokae, an accomplished tenor saxophonist, belonged as a founder member (Hugh Masekela was another).

 

click for link ITDb

Cast and production details various Mokae plays.

 

click for link Surfafel G, AllAfrica (link has gone)

An interview of Leelai Demoz, who worked with Mokae on The Song of Jacob Zulu.

""I learned a lot from [Mokae] and he liked what I did as an actor."

 

click for link Fences
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Director Zakes Mokae creates wonderful pacing that carries the viewer through Troy's stumbles and starts. He always remains true to the emotional core of the work, letting the shared emotions communicate the essence of the story, without resorting to theatricality. Mokae also draws fine performances from Martha Watson, Leain Vashon, Steven McKenzy, Cameron Miller and AnSherae Devine.

 

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The Emperor Jones which you can listen to for free over Internet.

With James Earl Jones and Zakes Mokae.

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