Introduction

Athol Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes was first performed at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg in 1978. In 1980, it was performed at the Yale Repertory Theater, starring James Earl Jones. Later that year, the play opened on Broadway, gaining an enthusiastic public and critical response. This play, as is the case with many of Fugard’s other works, focuses on the tensions that arose between whites and blacks living under the system of apartheid in South Africa. The plot of A Lesson from Aloes centers on a farewell dinner in 1963 given by a white Afrikaner for his good friend, a black activist who has given up the cause. During the course of the evening, the two friends confront issues of loyalty and betrayal and sanity and madness, as they struggle to make sense of their experience in an oppressive and divisive world and of the effect that experience has on human relationships.