Toward the end of the apartheid era in South Africa, Johannesburg's groundbreaking Junction Theatre Company made artistic history by staging Tooth and Nail, a play that examined the role of art in resistance struggles. Fifteen years later, the work receives its US premiere starting Friday in the Durham Studio Theater behind UC's Dwinelle Hall, thanks to director Laura Levin, a Ph.D student at UC Berkeley's Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. Malcolm Purkey, a founding member of Junction Theatre and director of the original production, introduces the work with a free lecture on Wednesday 19 November at 4 p.m., and also leads a postperformance discussion. The play incorporates the singing and dancing that played an integral part in South Africa's anti-apartheid protests. Giant puppets by Heather Crow as well as a stunning procession of images and narrative fragments make this production stand out. Levin says the play is unique because it was written right before the apartheid laws were repealed: "The play grapples with the role of art in a postrevolutionary context. It asks if under apartheid most artistic practices were devoted to resistance art, what is there is to comment upon and make art about once those apartheid structures are taken away?"
UC's production underscores the play's important questions about gender and sexuality, pointing out that the public face of the revolution was primarily male, and asking how to change that to recognize those who have been ignored in the official accounts. Levin is especially aware of the play's relevance to current global catastrophes: "Even though I wouldn't draw direct parallels between the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and South Africa in 1989, we're now witnessing a lot of reconstruction efforts in those countries," she says. "This play asks how art can represent the messy aftermovement during a time of negotiations and imperfect elections."
That Tooth and Nail has reached the United States at all is due to a shift in outlook. "There's been a turn toward taking on dramatic literature beyond that written by dead white men living in the Euro-American orbit," Levin says. Had it not been for her efforts, the Eurocentric slant of US publishing houses might still prevent us from seeing this extraordinary piece of theater.
Tooth and Nail opens November 12 at Durham Studio Theater and runs through November 21. Tickets $8-$14 from 866-468-3399, Ticketweb.com, at the Zellerbach box office on Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m., or at the door. Theater.Berkeley.edu -- Jason Victor Serinus
Rolling on Up
Hip-hop dance in Berkeley
Body rolls, triple steps, and moonwalks have come a long way from their origins in the streets, and their residencies in nightclubs and aerobics studios. They've gone Above and Beyond, and this weekend a show of that name lands below the gentle beams of the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Darnell Carroll, director of City Shock Dance Troupe, brings his young Bay Area dancers to 2640 College Ave., Berkeley for a West Coast hip-hop dance showcase at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets $7-$17 from JuliaMorgan.org or 925-798-1300. -- Stefanie Kalem
Such is the lasting appeal of Jane Austen that her 19th-century English novels of manners are still striking home with readers and audiences today. Take Aurora Theatre Company's production of Emma. Protagonist Emma Woodhouse (played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 film, Lauren Grace on Aurora's stage) is the classic busybody, forever engaged in match-making machinations. Yet she's oddly lovable. Really. Michael Fry's adaptation of Emma, directed by Jeffrey Bihr, opens Friday and runs through December 19 at Aurora, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets: $28-$45.For more information, visit AuroraTheatre.org -- Kelly Vance
A Wee Drap o' It
So-called "Celtic music" has invited derision the past few years, the victim of watering down and oversynthing by world music honchos. But the real thing -- that's worth listening to. Distant Oaks appear to be the real thing, a family quartet that sings and plays traditional Scottish, Irish, and Appalachian tunes. They take the stage Sunday afternoon (4:30) for a Celtic & Appalachian Harvest Celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Alameda, 2001 Santa Clara Ave., 510-522-1477. DistantOaks.com -- Kelly Vance
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