First produced at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1982, Athol Fugard's "Master Harold"…and the Boys is based on the playwright's early life in South Africa. But the play itself is not a simple retelling of an incident from his past. Rather, Fugard has presented a personal experience that extends to universal humanity. If the play were simply a polemic against the policy of apartheid, it would already be outdated now that sweeping change has transformed South Africa. Instead, Fugard wrote a play about human relationships that are put to the test by societal and personal forces.
Because Fugard (critically) focused most of his work on the injustices of the apartheid system of South Africa's government, government officials called many of Fugard's works subversive and several times attempted to prevent publication and/or production of his plays. Much of his early work was presented to small private audiences to avoid government censorship. ''Master Harold"…and the Boys, however, played 344 performances on Broadway and was produced in other major cities including London. The play was officially banned by the South African government. Despite the efforts of his native country, the wider world community did not ignore Fugard's work and "Master Harold''…and the Boys earned the Drama Desk Award and Critics Circle Award for best play in 1983, and London's Evening Standard Award in 1984. The play has subsequently earned a place in contemporary world drama, enjoying frequent revivals around the world It is considered to be one of Fugard's masterpieces and a vital work valued for both its universal themes of humanity and its skilled theater craft.