Born Harold Athol Lannigan Fugard in Middleburg in 1932, Athol Fugard is a South African playwright
, and actor
, whose works often focus on South African politics
. Fugard explores topics such as racism
, yet portrays common topics for all man, and brings hope in the form of the human spirit.
Fugard grew up in Port Elizabeth and received tertiary instruction at the University of Cape Town. He then spent two years as the only white seaman on a merchant ship in the Far East, then returned to South Africa.
His plays are No Good Friday (1959), The Blood Knot (1961), Hello and Goodbye (1965) and Boesman and Lena (1969) (these last three forming a trilogy focusing on family relationships in Port Elizabeth), A Lesson from Aloes (1978), Master Harold ... and the Boys (1982), The Road to Mecca (1984), My Children, My Africa! (1988), Playland (1992), and Valley Song (1995), and finally, The Captain's Tiger (1999) (which left behing the complexities of politics).
Fugard also cowrote Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973) with John Kani and Winston Ntshona.
Fugard also wrote about his theatre work in Notebooks 1960-1977 (1984); and about himself in Cousins: A Memoir (1997).
Fugard was no stranger to conflict with the South African government of the time; his attacks on and refusal of the system of apartheid led to his passport being revoked for four years. He also lead protests against the prevention of black South Africans from seeing plays by white playwrights. This caused a boycott of South African theater by most English-speaking overseas playwrights, who refused to permit their plays to be performed there. Fugard formed the Serpent Players, a company composed of blacks from nearby townships. The government prohibited mixed casts and racially mixed audiences at performances. After artists petitioned the government, Fugard's passport was returned in 1971, and he was allowed to travel, but only to the United Kingdom.
A Lesson from Aloes won the 1980 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. "Master Harold"... and the Boys (1982) premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre and then was taken to Broadway.