Stephen Sachs has fast become the American director of choice for the legendary South African playwright, Athol Fugard. “Athol never attends productions of his plays by other directors, but he saw my production of The Road to Mecca in 2000 and really liked it,” says Sachs. Having directed the world premiere of Fugard’s Exits and Entrances, which enjoyed successful runs in New York and Los Angeles, Sachs is now taking on Fugard’s latest play, Victory, making its U.S. premiere at the Fountain Theatre in L.A., where Sachs is the managing artistic director.
Sachs has found success in engaging an American audience in South African politics, the looming subject behind many of Fugard’s works, including Victory. The play follows Vicky and Freddie, two black South Africans who burglarize the home of Lionel, an elderly white South African who formerly employed Vicky’s late mother as a housekeeper. Responding to the notion that Fugard’s work is too audience-specific, Sachs rebuts, “The brilliance of Athol’s writing is that it is specifically about a time and place and yet it is intensely universal.”
For Sachs, there is nothing lost in translation for this American premiere. “Liberal, well-meaning whites in South Africa and in the U.S. believe we can have personal relationships with the man who cuts our lawn or the woman who does our laundry. We don’t understand why they don’t feel the same way. I think that is the big realization that Lionel has. There is much good in the country, but there are moments when we are still reminded of racism, prejudice, and despair.”