An Explosive Story about Forbidden Passion on Sacred Grounds
In 1948, “Apartheid” (separateness) ruled the land in South Africa it was a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-white groups in South Africa. For forty-six years many suffered under the law of their oppressor with this passing law that band non-whites of voting privileges, forbidden marriages between whites and non-whites, and the confiscation of land from non-whites by consigning them into isolated zones.
However, in 1994 the National Congress, an anti-apartheid party, took control of the government in the first open election by voting Nelson Mandela as President and instituting a new constitution. For those who were oppressed it meant a modern day of hope filled with aspirations of starting your journey and changing the narrative of your life. Every April 27th South Africa celebrates “Freedom Day” honoring the anniversary of the first open election with festivals and celebrations.
South African director and playwright Yaël Farber award-winning adaptation of August Strindberg's classic Miss Julie is set in a remote South African desert on Freedom Day, 18 years after the end of apartheid. "Mies Julie" s filled with primal passion, rage and deep-seated resentment, all of the elements that embark on the primitive toils of contemporary South African society.
A farm laborer John (Jalen Gilbert) encounters his white Afrikaans master’s daughter Julie (Heather Chrisler) who has just been dumped by her fiancé in a sweltering kitchen on a hot, feverish night where his mother Christine (Celeste Williams) had just finished cleaning the floors. Miss Julie is attracted to John because he is well-mannered and well-read.
John and Julie both share an undeniable heated attraction for one another and on this particular night while everyone is out celebrating “Freedom Day” the relationship between Miss Julie and John intensifies quickly to feelings of love and is subsequently consummated.
However, over the course of the play which eventually spirals aggressively out of control, Miss Julie and John battle until Julie convinces him that the only way to escape her predicament is to commit suicide.
Strindberg's, Miss Julie, known as Fröken Julie, was a naturalistic play written in 1888 that was originally set on a midsummer's eve on the estate of a count in Sweden with one of the themes that the play wanted to invoke was Darwinism. Another significant change from the original play is, during her battles with the servant, Miss Julie is convinced to commit suicide to escape her predicament and Christine, who is the mother in Farber adaptation was the fiancée of the servant named Jean (John in Farber's production) in Strindberg's original play.
Director Dexter Bullard, who is a well-known director throughout Chicago, who directed "Circle Mirror Transformation" at Victory Gardens Theater, brings Yaël Farber layers of complexities in Mies Julie to life with intense scenes of heated passion, in a naturalistic style that is relentless with duality, fiery language, and stark dialogue.
Together they help the audience relive The Bantu Land Act, No.23 of 1933, when non-white Africans were prohibited from buying land and took sacred land from those not considered Afrikaners.
Mies Julie also drives into another law, The Immorality Act No.5 of 1927 that prohibited sexual intercourse between white and non-whites. The penalty would be imprisonment, however, for most Africans, it leads to their death. It was not until 1985, 58 years later that this law was reversed by the Immorality and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and in 1994 the election of Nelson Mandela brought the separateness of South Africa full circle.
Farber, a Helen Hayes Award winner for Outstanding Director of a Play, brings a new political element to the classic, fleshing out more fully the contemporary issues of human rights, race, power, and gender power through the lens of post-apartheid South Africa.
We highly recommend Meis Julie at Victory Garden Theater.
The cast includes:
Tosha 'Ayo' Alston (Ukhokho)
Heather Chrisler (Mies Julie)
Jalen Gilbert (John)
Celeste Williams (Christine)
Victory Gardens Theater concludes 43rd Season with
By Yaël Farber
Directed by Dexter Bullard
Adapted from August Strindberg’s Miss Julie
May 25 – June 24, 2018
Filed under: ChicagoNow