Athol Fugard


 A Brief Biography of Athol Fugard

“I can’t think of a single one of my plays that does not represent a coincidence between an external and an internal event. Something outside of me, outside even my own life, something I read in a newspaper or witness on the street, something I see or hear, fascinates me. I see it for its ‘dramatic’ potential.”

– Athol Fugard

Athol Fugard. Photo by Gregory Costanzo.
Photo by Gregory Costanzo.

Hailed as “the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world,” South Africa’s Athol Fugard has won international praise for creating theatre of “power, glory, and majestic language.” In more than 20 plays, written over six decades, he has chronicled the struggles of men and women of all races for dignity and human fulfillment.

Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, he founded a multiracial theatre company in the 1950s in defiance of the South African government’s apartheid system. When he and a black colleague appeared as mixed-race brothers in his play The Blood Knot, it was closed after a single performance. In the 1960s, his work found an audience in other English-speaking countries. After he appeared in The Blood Knot on BBC Television, the government seized his passport.

Since the downfall of the apartheid system, Fugard has been honored by his country’s government and by critics and audiences the world over. An Honorary Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature, in 2001 he received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. His novel Tsotsi was adapted into the film of the same name, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2006. He has appeared as an actor in the feature films Gandhi and The Killing Fields. In 2014, he returned to the stage for the first time in 15 years to act in his play Shadow of the Hummingbird at the Long Wharf Theatre.

Biography Credit: Academy of Achievement