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KANI, John Bonisile. (1943-) Actor, director, playwright and theatre administrator. ****Joined the Serpent Players ***??? in Port Elizabeth, where he met and worked with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona, working on plays such as The Terrorists and The Coat (196*). Later came  Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973) at [[Space Theatre|The Space]. Kani continued as actor to become a sought after leading actor in the 1980s, often participating in in controversial anti-apartheid work such as the local version of  Master Harold and the Boys (Fugard, 198*), Bobby Heaney’s sensational Baxter Theatre production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie (198*) with Afrikaans actress  Sandra Prinsloo as Miss Julie and Kani as Jean. He also starred as the first black Othello in South Africa, directed by Janet Suzman for the Market Theatre in 1987.  In the late 1980s beginning 1990s he has worked with Fugard again on the latter’s “plays of healing” -  most notably as the troubled and kind Master in My Children, My Africa (19**) and the guard Playland (Fugard, 1992). In 2002 he returned to playwriting, opening at the Grahamstown Festival with Nothing But The Truth, which he wrote and took the lead in. The play won numerous accolades and awards (including Fleur du Cap Awards for Best Actor, Best Director (Janice Honeyman) and Best New Indigenous Script) and had an extensive life abroad. In 2004 he played "Creon" in a new version of  Antigone for the Baxter Theatre and in  2005 Claudius in Janet Suzman’s Hamlet (Baxter Theatre) . As a director his credits include Goree and Blues Africa Café (Matsemela Manaka), Kagoos (Kessie Govender), The Meeting (Jeff Stetson), Nothing but the Truth (Kani, 2002). He has also done a great deal of film and television work, among his most notable performances being leading roles in The Wild Geese, The Grass is Singing, Marigolds in August, Victims of Apartheid, An American Dream, A Dry White Season, Sarafina, Saturday Night at the Palace and a number of international movies. During the latter part of the 1980s Kani was gradually drawn into theatre and cultural adminstration and politics, to become Artistic Director of the Market Theatre after the death of Barney Simon.  He went on from there to become a member of the board of trustees and to play a prominent part on the boards of PACT, the National Arts Council, the Grahamstown Arts Festival, the Apartheid Museum  and similar forums. Kani has won numerous awards over the years, including a Tony Award for his role in Sizwe Bansi is Dead in America. In 1993 he received a special Obie Award in New York for his contribution to theatre. Among his numerous national and international honours are honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durban Westville and Rhodes,  the 2000 Hiroshima Renaissance Merit award for Peace from the Swedish Academy and the 2003 SAB Leadership and Service Award. *** [see PD Uys piece]??** KANI, John. Actor and executive director of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg until 2003. Together with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona he formed the Serpent Players who workshopped the play, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, starring himself and Ntshona. Ian Bernhardt brought it to the Men’s Common Room for the Phoenix Players in November 1972. It was directed by Barney Simon. Together with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona he created The Island which was staged at [[Space Theatre|The Space] Theatre circa 1973. It travelled abroad and enjoyed many runs locally, including one at the Market Theatre in May 1995. Together with Winston Ntshona he revived The Island at the Market Theatre in June 1977 with Alan Joseph as stage manager. He starred in Barney Simon’s production of Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith together with Janet Suzman and Winston Ntshona at the Market in 1979. Sizwe Banzi is Dead was staged at The Market in 1978. He starred in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot together with Winston Ntshona and Pieter-Dirk Uys. It was directed by Donald Howarth and staged at the Baxter and at the Market in 1980 before leaving for the USA and Britain. He starred in Athol Fugard’s Master Harold … and the Boys together with Ramolao Makhene and Duart Sylwain with direction by Fugard who was assisted by Suzanne Shepherd at the Market in March 1983. He starred in Bobby Heaney’s production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie together with Sandra Prinsloo. It originated at the Baxter and went to the Market in February 1985. He starred in Bobby Heaney’s productions of Harold Pinter’s One for the Road at the Wits Theatre in 1985. He starred in Janet Suzman’s production of Othello at the Market in September 1987. He directed Kessie Govender’s Kagoos at the Market in 1988. He starred in Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. He starred in Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa! in 1989. He starred in Playland at the Market in 1992. He starred in Tom Kempinski’s Duet for One in 1994. ** KANI, John.  (b. 1943, PE) Master Harold & the Boys, Baxter Company ’83 (Market Theatre Company Production) with John Kani, Duarte Sylwain & Makhen’e Ramolao, Athol (dir).  Nothing but the truth (2002)    Training – Serpent Players.Siswe Banzi is Dead – created with Athol Fugard & Winston Ntshona.  Performed Siswe in London & Broadway. Won the Tony.  Professional actor from 1973.  1977 The Wild Geese, an action movie. Honoured for his contribution to SA theatre during the 1980’s by the Hiroshima Foundation.  The Island.  Won 2 Toronto Theatre Awards and several awards.* (Tucker, 1997)
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[[John Kani|John Bonisile Kani]] (1943-) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kani]. Actor, director, playwright and theatre administrator.  
  
 +
== Biography ==
 +
 +
=== Youth ===
 +
He was born in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth on 30 August 1943. One source gives his date of birth as 30 November 1942.
  
Return to [[ESAT Personalities K]]
+
=== Training and Career ===
 +
Worked with [[Athol Fugard]] since 1965 when he joined the [[Serpent Players]] with [[Winston Ntshona]]. Since 1973 he has worked as a professional actor.
 +
 
 +
==Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance==
 +
 
 +
He worked with [[Athol Fugard]] and [[Winston Ntshona]] on plays such as ''[[The Terrorists]]'' and ''[[The Coat]]'' (1966). Later came ''[[Sizwe Bansi is Dead]]'' (1972) and ''[[The Island]]'' (1973) at [[Space Theatre|The Space]].
 +
 
 +
=== As actor ===
 +
Kani continued as actor to become a sought after leading actor in the 1980s, often participating in controversial anti-apartheid work such as the local version of ''[[Master Harold and the boys]]'' ([[Athol Fugard|Fugard]], [[Market Theatre]], 1983).
 +
 
 +
He starred in [[Bobby Heaney]]’s production of Strindberg’s ''[[Miss Julie]]'' together with [[Sandra Prinsloo]] as Miss Julie and Kani as Jean. It originated at the [[Baxter Theatre|Baxter]] and went to the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in February 1985.
 +
He also starred as the first black ''[[Othello]]'' in South Africa, directed by [[Janet Suzman]] for the [[Market Theatre]] in 1987.
 +
 
 +
In the late 1980s beginning 1990s he has worked with [[Athol Fugard|Fugard]] again on the latter’s “plays of healing” -  most notably as the troubled and kind Master in ''[[My Children!, My Africa!]]'' (19**) and the guard in ''[[Playland]]'' ([[Athol Fugard|Fugard]], 1992).
 +
 
 +
In 2004 he played "Creon" in a new version of ''[[Antigone]]'' for the [[Baxter Theatre]] and in 2005 Claudius in [[Janet Suzman]]’s ''[[Hamlet]]'' ([[Baxter Theatre]]).
 +
 
 +
At the [[Market Theatre]]:
 +
''[[The Blood Knot]]'';
 +
''[[Driving Miss Daisy]]'';
 +
''[[The Native Who Caused All the Trouble]]'';
 +
''[[Othello]]'';
 +
''[[The Lion and the Lamb]]'';
 +
''[[Sizwe Bansi is Dead]]'';
 +
''[[The Island]]'';
 +
''[[Waiting for Godot]]'';
 +
''[[The Death of Bessie Smith]]'';
 +
''[[My Children!, My Africa!]]'
 +
He starred in [[Barney Simon]]’s production of Edward Albee’s ''[[The Death of Bessie Smith]]'' together with [[Janet Suzman]] and [[Winston Ntshona]] at the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in 1979. ''[[Sizwe Bansi is Dead]]'' was staged at The [[Market Theatre|Market]] in 1978.
 +
 
 +
He starred in Beckett’s ''[[Waiting for Godot]]'' together with [[Winston Ntshona]] and [[Pieter-Dirk Uys]]. It was directed by [[Donald Howarth]] and staged at the [[Baxter Theatre|Baxter]] and at the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in 1980 before leaving for the USA and Britain.
 +
 
 +
He starred in [[Bobby Heaney]]’s productions of Harold Pinter’s ''[[One for the Road]]'' at the [[Wits Theatre]] in 1985. He starred in [[Janet Suzman]]’s production of ''[[Othello]]'' at the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in September 1987. He directed [[Kessie Govender]]’s ''[[Kagoos]]'' at the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in 1988. He starred in Alfred Uhry’s ''[[Driving Miss Daisy]]'' in 1989. He starred in [[Athol Fugard]]’s ''[[My Children!, My Africa!]]'' in 1989. He starred in [[Playland]] at the [[Market Theatre|Market]] in 1992.
 +
 
 +
In 1994 he starred in Tom Kempinski’s ''[[Duet for One]]'' at the [[Market Theatre]]. This was his first play since the elections in April 1994 put a democratically elected government in power in South Africa. In an interview with Richard McNeill, published in the ''Sunday Times'', he stated that for the first time he felt free of the burden of the politics, the correctness, the relevance, the suitability, of his work.
 +
 
 +
He wrote and performed in ''[[Nothing but the Truth]]'' (2002), ''[[Missing...]]'' (2014), ''[[Kunene and the King]]'' (2019)
 +
 
 +
Film credits:
 +
He has also done a great deal of film and television work, among his most notable performances being leading roles in ''The Wild Geese'', ''The Grass is Singing'', ''Marigolds in August'', ''Victims of Apartheid'', ''An American Dream'', ''A Dry White Season'', ''Sarafina'', ''Saturday Night at the Palace'' and a number of international movies.
 +
''The Wild Geese'' (1977);
 +
''The Grass is Singing'';
 +
''Marigolds in August'';
 +
''Victims of Apartheid'';
 +
''An African Dream'';
 +
''Option'';
 +
''A Dry White Season'';
 +
''Saturday Night at the Palace'' (Won a Taormina Golden Award at the Milan International Festival);
 +
''[[Sarafina]]'' (movie).
 +
 
 +
=== As playwright ===
 +
 
 +
 
 +
He helped create and workshop ''[[Sizwe Bansi is Dead]]'' (1972) and ''[[The Island]]'' (1973). He wrote and performed in ''[[Nothing but the Truth]]'' (2002), ''[[Missing]]'' (2014), ''[[Kunene and the King]]'' (2019).
 +
 
 +
=== As a director ===
 +
 +
His credits include ''[[Friday's Bread on Monday]]'' (1970), ''[[Goree]]'' and ''[[Blues Africa Café]]'' ([[Matsemela Manaka]]), ''[[Kagoos]]'' ([[Kessie Govender]], 1988), ''[[The Meeting]]'' ([[Jeff Stetson]]), ''[[Nothing but the Truth]]'' (Kani, 2002), ''[[Othello]]'' (2011).
 +
 +
He directed several commercials.
 +
 
 +
== As administrator ==
 +
During the latter part of the 1980s Kani was gradually drawn into theatre and cultural adminstration and politics, to become Artistic Director of the [[Market Theatre]] after the death of [[Barney Simon]]
 +
He went on from there to become a member of the board of trustees and to play a prominent part on the boards of [[PACT]], the [[National Arts Council]], the [[Grahamstown Arts Festival]], the Apartheid Museum  and similar forums.
 +
Executive director of the [[Market Theatre]] in Johannesburg until 2003.
 +
Kani is (was?) a Trustee and Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre Foundation as well as Director of the Market Theatre Laboratory.
 +
 
 +
== Awards, etc ==
 +
Kani has won numerous awards over the years, including the 1974/5 Tony Award for ''[[The Island]]'' and ''[[Sizwe Bansi is Dead]]'' in America. In 1993 he received a special Obie Award in New York for his contribution to theatre.
 +
 
 +
Among his numerous national and international honours are honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durban Westville and Rhodes, the 2000 Hiroshima Renaissance Merit award [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshima_Peace_Culture_Foundation] for Peace from the Swedish Academy and the 2003 SAB Leadership and Service Award. *** [see PD Uys piece]??**
 +
 
 +
''[[My Children!, My Africa!]]'' (AA [[Vita Award]] 1990 for his role as Mr. M.).
 +
 
 +
He won a [[Naledi Theatre Awards|Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award]], February 2005.
 +
 
 +
John has received a Merit Award from NAFCOC for his contribution to the advancement of culture in South Africa.
 +
 
 +
Directed several commercials and won the M-Net Plum Award and was a finalist in the Lourie (Loerie?) Awards.
 +
 
 +
The main theatre of the Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg, has been renamed The John Kani Theatre in his honour.
 +
 
 +
He received the Naledi Theatre World Impact Award on 20 May 2019 [https://www.msn.com/en-za/entertainment/local/john-kani-gets-honoured-receives-naledi-theatre-world-impact-award/ar-AABGfDO?ocid=spartanntp].
 +
 
 +
== Sources ==
 +
[[ESAT Bibliography Tra-Tz|Tucker]], 1997.
 +
 
 +
''[[Playland]]'' programme notes, 1992.
 +
 
 +
Interview with Richard McNeill, published in ''[[Sunday Times]]'', 10 July 1994.
 +
 
 +
''The Star'', 15 February 2005.
 +
 
 +
Numerous entries in the [[NELM]] catalogue.
 +
 
 +
== For more information ==
 +
IMDb [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0434712/].
 +
 
 +
== Return to ==
 +
 
 +
Return to [[ESAT Personalities K]]  
  
 
Return to [[South_African_Theatre/Personalities|South African Theatre Personalities]]
 
Return to [[South_African_Theatre/Personalities|South African Theatre Personalities]]
 +
 +
Return to [[The ESAT Entries]]
  
 
Return to [[Main Page]]
 
Return to [[Main Page]]

Latest revision as of 16:48, 21 May 2019

John Bonisile Kani (1943-) [1]. Actor, director, playwright and theatre administrator.

Biography

Youth

He was born in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth on 30 August 1943. One source gives his date of birth as 30 November 1942.

Training and Career

Worked with Athol Fugard since 1965 when he joined the Serpent Players with Winston Ntshona. Since 1973 he has worked as a professional actor.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He worked with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona on plays such as The Terrorists and The Coat (1966). Later came Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973) at The Space.

As actor

Kani continued as actor to become a sought after leading actor in the 1980s, often participating in controversial anti-apartheid work such as the local version of Master Harold and the boys (Fugard, Market Theatre, 1983).

He starred in Bobby Heaney’s production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie together with Sandra Prinsloo as Miss Julie and Kani as Jean. It originated at the Baxter and went to the Market in February 1985. He also starred as the first black Othello in South Africa, directed by Janet Suzman for the Market Theatre in 1987.

In the late 1980s beginning 1990s he has worked with Fugard again on the latter’s “plays of healing” - most notably as the troubled and kind Master in My Children!, My Africa! (19**) and the guard in Playland (Fugard, 1992).

In 2004 he played "Creon" in a new version of Antigone for the Baxter Theatre and in 2005 Claudius in Janet Suzman’s Hamlet (Baxter Theatre).

At the Market Theatre: The Blood Knot; Driving Miss Daisy; The Native Who Caused All the Trouble; Othello; The Lion and the Lamb; Sizwe Bansi is Dead; The Island; Waiting for Godot; The Death of Bessie Smith; My Children!, My Africa!' He starred in Barney Simon’s production of Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith together with Janet Suzman and Winston Ntshona at the Market in 1979. Sizwe Bansi is Dead was staged at The Market in 1978.

He starred in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot together with Winston Ntshona and Pieter-Dirk Uys. It was directed by Donald Howarth and staged at the Baxter and at the Market in 1980 before leaving for the USA and Britain.

He starred in Bobby Heaney’s productions of Harold Pinter’s One for the Road at the Wits Theatre in 1985. He starred in Janet Suzman’s production of Othello at the Market in September 1987. He directed Kessie Govender’s Kagoos at the Market in 1988. He starred in Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. He starred in Athol Fugard’s My Children!, My Africa! in 1989. He starred in Playland at the Market in 1992.

In 1994 he starred in Tom Kempinski’s Duet for One at the Market Theatre. This was his first play since the elections in April 1994 put a democratically elected government in power in South Africa. In an interview with Richard McNeill, published in the Sunday Times, he stated that for the first time he felt free of the burden of the politics, the correctness, the relevance, the suitability, of his work.

He wrote and performed in Nothing but the Truth (2002), Missing... (2014), Kunene and the King (2019)

Film credits: He has also done a great deal of film and television work, among his most notable performances being leading roles in The Wild Geese, The Grass is Singing, Marigolds in August, Victims of Apartheid, An American Dream, A Dry White Season, Sarafina, Saturday Night at the Palace and a number of international movies. The Wild Geese (1977); The Grass is Singing; Marigolds in August; Victims of Apartheid; An African Dream; Option; A Dry White Season; Saturday Night at the Palace (Won a Taormina Golden Award at the Milan International Festival); Sarafina (movie).

As playwright

He helped create and workshop Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973). He wrote and performed in Nothing but the Truth (2002), Missing (2014), Kunene and the King (2019).

As a director

His credits include Friday's Bread on Monday (1970), Goree and Blues Africa Café (Matsemela Manaka), Kagoos (Kessie Govender, 1988), The Meeting (Jeff Stetson), Nothing but the Truth (Kani, 2002), Othello (2011).

He directed several commercials.

As administrator

During the latter part of the 1980s Kani was gradually drawn into theatre and cultural adminstration and politics, to become Artistic Director of the Market Theatre after the death of Barney Simon He went on from there to become a member of the board of trustees and to play a prominent part on the boards of PACT, the National Arts Council, the Grahamstown Arts Festival, the Apartheid Museum and similar forums. Executive director of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg until 2003. Kani is (was?) a Trustee and Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre Foundation as well as Director of the Market Theatre Laboratory.

Awards, etc

Kani has won numerous awards over the years, including the 1974/5 Tony Award for The Island and Sizwe Bansi is Dead in America. In 1993 he received a special Obie Award in New York for his contribution to theatre.

Among his numerous national and international honours are honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durban Westville and Rhodes, the 2000 Hiroshima Renaissance Merit award [2] for Peace from the Swedish Academy and the 2003 SAB Leadership and Service Award. *** [see PD Uys piece]??**

My Children!, My Africa! (AA Vita Award 1990 for his role as Mr. M.).

He won a Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award, February 2005.

John has received a Merit Award from NAFCOC for his contribution to the advancement of culture in South Africa.

Directed several commercials and won the M-Net Plum Award and was a finalist in the Lourie (Loerie?) Awards.

The main theatre of the Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg, has been renamed The John Kani Theatre in his honour.

He received the Naledi Theatre World Impact Award on 20 May 2019 [3].

Sources

Tucker, 1997.

Playland programme notes, 1992.

Interview with Richard McNeill, published in Sunday Times, 10 July 1994.

The Star, 15 February 2005.

Numerous entries in the NELM catalogue.

For more information

IMDb [4].

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Return to ESAT Personalities K

Return to South African Theatre Personalities

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page