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 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 in Playland (Fugard, 1992).
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! (AA Vita Award 1990 for role as Mr. M.).
Won the 1974/5 Tony Award for The Island and Sizwe Bansi is Dead.
The Wild Geese; 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 a director
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 Bansi 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 The Space 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 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 Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the boys together with Ramolao Makhene and Duarte 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 and the boys, Baxter Company ’83 (Market Theatre Company Production) with John Kani, Duarte Sylwain & Makhen’e Ramolao, Athol Fugard (dir). Nothing but the Truth (2002). Training – Serpent Players. Sizwe Bansi 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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