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directing and acting:
1990s and 2000s

Mokae remains with Fugard and modern American drama, particularly August Wilson, and moves from acting to directing "I leave acting to the actors. I've been acting for too long ".


Tug Yourgrau  The Song of Jacob Zulu 1992-1993

The Song of Jacob Zulu

Tug Yourgrau´s play about South African terrorism, performed in Chicago by the Steppenwolf company and then on Broadway.  Mokae played the roles of Rev. Zulu, Mr. X and Itshe in the Steppenwolf production in the Plymouth Theatre Broadway.  He received a Tony nomination for his performance. Directed by Eric Simonson.  Music was by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Other members of the ensemble were Robert Breuler, K. Todd Freeman, John Mahoney, Alan Wilder, Pat Bowie, Patrick Clear, David Connelly, Leelai Demoz, Jabulani Dubazana, Deanna Dunagan, Erika L. Heard, Danny Johnson, Gary DeWitt Marshall, Abednego Mazibuko, Albert Mazibuko, Geophrey Mdletshe, Russel Mthembu, Inos Phungula, Ben Shabalala, Jockey Shabalala, Joseph Shabalala, Nicholas Chross Wodtke and Cedric Young.

Zakes Mokae in The Song of Jcob Zulu

"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..." (Time, 3 Jan 1994)



August Wilson  Seven Guitars 1995

Seven Guitars cover

Says John Papageorge "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".  A three and a half hour performance.  In the initial performances in Boston Mokae, brought in after last minute cast changes, read the lines on-stage from the script.

"Wilson is always interested in things spiritual and in how the mystical intersects with real life. Here, as brilliantly rendered by Zakes Mokae, Hedley is Wilson's most deeply symbolic character. Hedley once killed a man who refused to call him by the name his father gave him, which was King. "After that," he tells Ruby, "I don't tell nobody my name is King." Everyone considers him crazy, he says, because he knows "the people is too small." They need a leader, "somebody to be the father of the man to lead the black man out of bondage. Maybe," he suggests, looking pointedly at young Ruby, "I'm the father of the messiah." (Mari Coates, 22 Nov 1995 in sfweekly).

Despite good reviews, Mokae decided to leave the production after a few performances.


August Wilson  Fences 1999

Fences cover

Mokae directs another August Wilson play about a Negro League baseball player.  Mokae says "No, no, I'm more into directing now. 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. It's about sharing ideas when you direct. I like to work with actors. Being an actor myself makes it easy". 

The cast were Sly Smith, Alexander Mervin, Martha Watson, Leain Vashon, Steven McKenzy, Cameron Miller and AnSherae Devine. 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. (Carolyn Wardle in Las Vegas Review-Journal). Mokae recalls that, while he was directing Fences at CCSN, one actor couldn't adapt to his looser style. "He couldn't let go, so I physically had to hold him down," he says. "I told him to try to get up. I was pushing him down, he was pushing me up, then I let go and said, ‘Now say that speech.' He was dead-on. He was holding back, and now he's free. He went to Hollywood and got a job." (Steve Bornfeld, Las Vegas Weekly, 28 June 2005).



Bryan Harnetiaux  National Pastimes 2002

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Mokae directing Bryan Harnetiaux´s play National Pastimes.  It is about the life and times of Jackie Robinson, the first black American to play professional baseball.  The cast includes Martha Watson, Jim Williams and Sly Smith. Alex Mervin plays Robinson.  Mokae is quoted by Ken White: "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."



Athol Fugard  The Road to Mecca 2003

Zakes Mokae directing The Road to Mecca in March 2003 at the BlackBox Theatre, UNLV.  The actors are Ray Favero, Charlene Sher and Jeanmarie Simpson.  Photo by Christine H. Wetzel from reviewjournal.

Zakes Mokae directing The Road to Mecca


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