“Aesop’s Fables” is a new show by the Isango Ensemble that is being performed at New York’s New Victory Theater in late November of 2019. Since its implementation in 2000 in Cape Town, South Africa,byhe group reimagines Western theater classics through a South African lens and creates new work relevant to the heritage of the nation. The mixture of multiple cultures and experiences in this award-winning company helps it create work that is both accessible and ambitious.
Mandisi Dyantyis is the Associate Director and co-Music Director of Isango Ensemble and has been with the company since 2006. He recently discussed this show, the group, and his experiences in theater via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in theater—especially children’s theater?
Mandisi Dyantyis (MD): It was the art of storytelling that got me interested. The fact that you could tell stories using words, music and dance was mind-blowing for me. Children’s theater is a huge vehicle for education, and it’s usually a fun way of teaching children about important messages that affect them.
MM: How did you initially get involved with the Isango Ensemble and what has been most rewarding about working with them?
MD: I was asked to come and help out at a workshop for a few weeks. Those few weeks turned into years. Isango represents certain people in South Africa that were, in the past, not thought of as people who could create the work we are creating now. The amount of talent you find in one room is astonishing and I get to write music for these people. The work ethic and the way they go about telling stories is both humbling and exciting.
MM: How do you find the scripts to produce and how do you select your cast?
MD: It’s always different for each show. Some pieces are suggestions, others are works we have always wanted to work on and others rise above the rest because they feature important subjects that we cannot ignore. We find our cast by auditioning singers from all over South Africa.
MM: What can audiences expect from “Aesop’s Fables”?
MD: It’s a beautiful piece filled with music, dance and lessons that young ones can learn from.
MM: How did you get involved with the New Victory and what do you most enjoy about working with them?
MD: We first got involved when we performed Magic Flute at the New Victory in 2014. We had such a great time here and returned with A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2015. This theater is doing so much great work for young people and the programming is world-class.
MM: What’s coming up for you in 2020?
MD: More work! I’ll be promoting my album Somandla and possibly creating new work with Isango Ensemble.
MM: How do you hope the Isango Ensemble will evolve in the future?
MD: I hope Isango will become an institution of African storytelling. We need to teach more people the African way of telling stories using the resources that we have.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
MD: I’d like to thank New Victory for having us again. We are really looking forward to this run!
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Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.newvictory.org or by calling the theater box office at 646.223.3010.
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Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!