Niles North Theatre brings “Ipi Zombi?,” a haunting story, based on tragic events, to the Drama Performance Center on October 17 through 19. A mysterious and tragic bus accident claimed the lives of twelve schoolboys. The town, devastated by this tragedy, seeks justice and an explanation: witchcraft. Truth, rumor, and legend consume the town as they conduct their own “witch hunt.” Written by Brett Bailey, “Ipi Zombi?” tells of the haunting reality that befell a small South African town after tragic chaos shook their moral, political, and social compass.
Performances in Niles North’s Drama Performance Center at 9800 Lawler, Skokie:
Thursday, October 17 at 7 p.m.
Friday, October 18 at 4 p.m.
Saturday, October 19 at 4 p.m.
Free community performance at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 17
Tickets are $10. Contact the Box Office at (847) 626-2122 or www.seatyourself.biz/nntheatre
Cast: Jamie Acido, Mariam Animashaun, Jordan Archer-Cull, Emily Bailey, Noelle Bryant, Francesca Galicia, Dylan Kaufman, Adrian Lorie, Jacob Rausa, Samantha Ratliff, Jonah Sendlin, Alex Titarenko, Isaac Wan.
Stage Manager: Grey Wiviott
Run Crew: Nathan Lesperance, Amanda Blatt, Leta Blades, Dina Shukhman, Corinne Anich, Megan Ferguson, Si Micari-Lawless.
House Manager: Hannah Birndorf
Special Musical Guest: Cuyler Lantry
“Ipi Zombi?” is directed by Niles North alumnus Pushkar Sharma. Guest artist Stacy Letrice choreographed movement for this work.
The production includes music, dance, drumming and storytelling. It will be told in English, with some songs in the Xhosa language.
This production contains adult themes.
About the Director:
Pushkar Sharma is a director, playwright, and poet based in Chicago. His work has been featured by The Asian American Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, and DesiLit Magazine. Pushkar co-founded the performance-poetry duo, BROWNSTAR, and performed in the stage show FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF WHITE at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival. He produced UNIFICATION, a joint independence celebration for India and Pakistan and a demonstration for peace in South Asia, annually in New York from 2009 to 2012. UNIFICATION featured the talents of prominent performers of South Asian heritage uniting members of the community in support of the work of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). His play Midnite’s Vultures was produced by Chicago’s Rasaka Theatre in 2009.
Pushkar has worked with the United Nations in Kosovo, the Gaza Strip, Colombia, Myanmar, and Iraq. He also worked for Pratham in India, the country’s largest education organization. He holds a MPA in Human Rights from Columbia University in the City of New York and a BA in International Studies and Drama from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a proud graduate of Niles North’s Class of 2002.
Note from the Director:
“Hey, this country is struggling”.
Though the incidents re-told in Ipi Zombi? unfolded in rural South Africa nearly 25 years ago, the play is alarmingly present. Ipi Zombi? shows us a microcosm of our times: the unresolved grief in a community following a tragic bus crash creates a volatile atmosphere in which mob violence claims the lives of several women suspected to be witches.
Violence against women and femicide (the intentional killing of females because they are females) remain pressing issues worldwide and have recently seized the national debate in South Africa. Last month thousands of South African women took to the streets protesting the rising number of attacks against women and to social media under the hashtag #AmINext?. The movement spurred the South African Prime Minister to propose increased funding and improvements to the criminal justice system, addressing what he deemed a “national crisis”.2 The effectiveness of these initiatives, however, remains to be seen.
Across the globe, political leaders seem to be more and more comfortable scapegoating, fearmongering, and targeting the vulnerable among us, often to reinforce their own political power. South Africa – like many other countries in the world – has endured a recent upsurge in violence against another historically marginalized community: migrants3. In the US, rage, sedition, and conspiracy crowd our daily headlines. Conspiracy theories today are no longer simply tabloid gossip: fear has ignited violence – from a Washington, DC pizzeria4 to a Pittsburgh synagogue5 to a bar in Kansas6 and sadly too many more. The FBI reports that hate crimes reports increased by 17% in 2017 compared to the previous year. Like South Africa in the wake of the school bus crash featured in Ipi Zombi?, has our society since 9/11 has been sickened by fear?
Ipi Zombi? illustrates how fear and bereavement can become a violent force, and how individuals and groups struggle to cope with this force. It asks us to be more than an unengaged spectator to take steps to break down barriers between communities; to bring together our voices and spirits.
- Francke, Robin-Lee. “Thousands Protest in South Africa over Rising Violence against Women.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/05/thousands-protest-in-south-africa-over-rising-violence-against-women.
- “South Africa Declares ‘Femicide’ a National Crisis.” Voice of America, https://www.voanews.com/africa/south-africa-declares-femicide-national-crisis.
- “South Africa: Attacks on Foreign Nationals.” Human Rights Watch, 15 Apr. 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/15/south-africa-attacks-foreign-nationals.
- Doubek, James. “Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Apologizes For Promoting ‘Pizzagate’.” NPR, NPR, 26 Mar. 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/26/521545788/conspiracy-theorist-alex-jones-apologizes-for-promoting-pizzagate.
- Kwong, Jessica. “Who Is Robert Bowers? Suspect Identified in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 27 Oct. 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/who-robert-bowers-suspect-identified-pittsburgh-tree-life-synagogue-shooting-1190440.
- Rizzo, Tony, et al. “First-Degree Murder Charge Filed in Possible Hate Crime Shooting at Olathe’s Austins Bar.” Kansascity, The Kansas City Star, 23 Feb. 2017, https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134459444.html.
About the Playwright:
Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and the artistic director of the performance company THIRD WORLD BUNFIGHT. He has worked throughout South Africa, in several African and European countries, and in the UK. His works have played across Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America, and have won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007). In February 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron knighted Bailey into the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres). Previous award winners include Ang Lee, Tim Burton, Phillip Glass, Jude Law, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Shakira, and Anurag Kashyap
Stacy Letrice is a dance performer, choreographer, instructor, mas band leader, and dance/movement therapist with over 20-years of local and global experience. In 2017, she was crowned Minnesota’s official Dancehall Queen after competing among other contestants from NYC, Europe, and the Midwest. Her passion for Reggae, Dancehall, Afro-beat and traditional West African cultures has opened doors for her to perform with artists such as Cardi B, P-Square, Les Twins, Lady Patra, Tarrus Riley, Elephant Man, Serani, Mr. Vegas, Wayne Wonder, Tiwa Savage, Banky W, Praiz, Chaka Demus & Pliers and more. In 2015, Her work as a dancer and dance/movement therapist led she create her own dance brand, “Jukeboxx Dance LLC”, dedicated to helping others pursue happiness through African and Caribbean dance forms. Her international travels include: South Africa, Nigeria, Barbados, Jamaica, Canada, London, Paris, Australia, Taiwan, and Brazil. Stacy Letrice teaches weekly adult classes in Chicago and is ecstatic to share her gifts around the world. When asked why she dances, Stacy always replies, “I know there is a God because I feel him when I dance.”