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Valley Song – Press Release

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Valley Songis hope-filled coming-of-age
story by master playwright Athol Fugard

LONG BEACH, Calif. (July 13, 2022) — A young girl seeks the courage to embrace the future while her grandfather searches for the wisdom to let go of the past. International City Theatre presents Valley Song, a poignant and hope-filled coming-of-age story by South African master playwright Athol Fugard. ICT artistic director caryn desai [sic] directs for an August 26 opening at ICT’s home in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, where performances continue through September 11. Two low-priced previews take place on August 24 and August 25.

Written after the collapse of South Africa’s system of institutionalized racial oppression known as apartheid, Valley Song reflects Fugard’s optimism for a new future as it examines a family’s intergenerational dynamics against the backdrop of political change.

“My hope led me to Valley Song, which is a play about transition,” the playwright said in an interview. “It’s about the challenge that one generation, my own, faces, when the world in which it had grown up in, and in which, for better or for worse, was comfortable, suddenly starts changing. A challenge to my generation to realize that you’ve got to let change happen, you’ve got to let go, to let life go its own way. And then a challenge to the younger generation to step boldly and with confidence and with faith in themselves into an uncertain future.”

Michael A. Shepperd and Belle Guillory star as Abraam Jonkers and his 17-year-old granddaughter, Veronica, who are what is known in South Africa as “coloured,” or mixed race. “Buks,” as the old man is called in the village, has been a pumpkin farmer his whole life, working land that never belonged to him. For him, land, tradition and family are everything, and the only family he has left is Veronica. But Veronica, who has devoted her life to caring for her “Oupa,” yearns to become a singer in Johannesburg.

Shepperd also takes on the role of “The Author” in this two-actor, three-character play: a White man who wants to buy the land where Abraam lives and works, potentially leaving him homeless.

Fugard explains that the story comes directly from his life. “I am the author; I am the White man who bought the land Buks Jonkers is farming. From the moment I first met old Buks, I felt an incredible empathy with him. I realized that but for the grace of God and circumstances, there go I. That old man with a handful of pumpkin seeds is really no different to Athol Fugard with a handful of words. He puts his seeds in the ground, I plant my words on paper. We’re both in the growing business.”

When Valley Song premiered at the Market Theater in Johannesburg, Fugard directed and also starred in the double role of Buks and the Author. That production went on to tour the U.S., including runs at the McCarter Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Kennedy Center and Mark Taper Forum.

Asked about casting one actor to play both roles, Fugard explained, “It’s not a question of a White or a Black actor for those two roles. Imagine you’ve got a coin, and you flip it, and if it’s heads you win and if it tails you lose. And you flip it, and it’s heads. Which means you’re Athol Fugard. You’re born with a white skin with all the privileges that go with that white skin. You flip the same coin, and it comes up tails—and you’re Abraam Jonkers, born with a dark skin, deprived of land ownership, no education, virtually no freedom to move or travel. It’s as close as that. The two sides of the same coin. That was the affinity I felt when I first met that old man. I really felt that I was seeing a reverse image of myself.”

Born in 1932, Fugard grew up to become the most renowned playwright of South Africa. His plays make powerful pleas for racial equality and harmony in a land torn by intolerance, resentment and discrimination. Born in the Karoo, the isolated, semi-desert farmland in which Valley Song is set, Fugard was raised in Port Elizabeth. Despite brief stints in larger cities, and despite worldwide fame, Port Elizabeth has remained his home. His adult years have seen the dismantling of the apartheid policy of racial segregation in South Africa. Fugard has since continued to comment on a political scene that, though more equal, is not much less volatile.

The creative team for the ICT production includes set designer Yuri Okahana-Benson, lighting designer Crystal R. Shomph, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Dave Mickey, prop designer Patty Briles, and hair and wigs designer Anthony Gagliardi. Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA and Richie Ferris, CSA. The production stage manager is Sarah Dawn Lowry.

Valley Song runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., August 26 through September 11. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Aug. 24 and Thursday, Aug. 25, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except August 26, opening night, for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception), and $52 at Sunday matinees. Low-priced tickets to previews are $37.

International City Theatre has formed a community partnership with the African American community in Long Beach with the purpose of bringing our diverse community together, raising funds for college scholarships, and bringing students to the production. A Community Partnership Package, which includes a pre-performance Gala dinner as well as the post-show reception with the actors on opening night, is $125; tables of ten are available for $1,200.

International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center at 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802.

To purchase tickets and for more information, including up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols on the day of each performance, call (562) 436-4610 or go to


Details for Calendar Listings
Valley Song

International City Theatre presents Valley Song, the first post-apartheid play by South African master playwright Athol Fugard. In this poignant and hope-filled coming-of-age story that transcends politics, a young girl seeks the courage to embrace the future while her grandfather searches for the wisdom to let go of the past.

• Written by Athol Fugard
• Directed and Produced by caryn desai [sic]
• Starring Belle Guillory and Michael A. Shepperd
• Presented by International City Theatre

Previews: Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.
Performances: Aug. 26 – Sept 11
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Aug. 24 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 25 (preview), Sept. 1, Sept. 8

Fridays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 26 (Opening Night), Sept. 2, Sept. 9
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 27, Sept. 3, Sept. 10
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Aug. 28, Sept. 4, Sept. 11


Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802


• Opening Night (June 10): $55 (includes post-show reception with the actors) or $125 (includes pre-show dinner in addition to post-show reception)
• Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except June 10): $49

• Sunday matinees: $52
• Previews: $37

Visit the website for up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols on the day of each performance.

562-436-4610 or