Mar 24, 2014
09:35 AMArts & Entertainment
Athol Fugard’s ‘The Shadow of the Hummingbird’ premieres at Long Wharf Theatre
Courtesy of Long Wharf Theatre
Athol Fugard joins “Hummingbird” director Gordon Edelstein, Long Wharf Theatre artistic director, and Aiden and Dermot McMillan. , the Middletown twins who will alternate the role of the playwright’s grandson.
With his 82nd birthday looming in June, playwright Athol Fugard knows that it’s only human to look backward rather than forward.
He is, after all, known as the most unifying voice of South Africa when the country was long divided by apartheid. He is perhaps one of the most obvious oversights for the Nobel Prize for Literature and a cherished actor-director to boot. Yet there is one person close to his heart who locks Fugard’s gaze forward. That friend and family member is his grandson Gavyn, who’s the inspiration for Fugard’s “The Shadow of the Hummingbird,” which makes its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II Wednesday (March 26) through April 27. (Athol Fugard in a photo by Peter Casolino/New Haven Register.)
“Oh, yes, I’ve got a gorgeous, young-well, he’s 9¾ years old,” said Fugard, who performs in the production as well. “He’s my only grandson, an only child, and there’s not likely to be another one.
“And just at the point when I began to grow world-weary and tired of everything, he came along and brought me out to play again,” said Fugard. “‘The Shadow of the Hummingbird’ is about that connection when you jump over a generation and suddenly connect to somebody else. It’s a wonderful experience, a great adventure for me and ongoing.”
Though Fugard still regards the Karoo desert region of South Africa as his permanent home, he’s spends most of his time in the San Diego area of Southern California to be with his daughter and grandson. Aside from writing, Fugard regards time spent with Gavyn as his most cherished.
“I love making up stories for him,” said Fugard in his smart, South African lilt. “I would challenge anyone to predict what Gavyn will be in his mature years. The sky’s the limit and the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, I believe, is something he can reach. I don’t mean that in a negative sense.
“He’s a great fisherman,” said Fugard. “He’s already better than me at fly-fishing, which is the piscatorial art of all. And it goes beyond his interest in the sea. Any aspect of nature fascinates him.”
“I can tell you one thing for certain, which is very obvious already: He’s a chip off the old Fugard block,” he said of his grandson. “In terms of what lies ahead for him, he’s going to surprise all of us. All of us.”
When young Gavyn flies out to New Haven with his mom to see “The Shadow of the Hummingbird,” his grandfather will likely surprise him. “I want him to look out from the audience and learn what his Oupa does when he goes away,” said Fugard, using his native slang for grandfather.