Friday, September 18, 2009

Zakes Mokae, Distinguished Tony-Winning South African Actor, Dies at 75


Zakes Mokae, Distinguished Tony-Winning South African Actor, Dies at 75


Zakes Mokae, one of the most celebrated South African actors of his generation, whose New York stages appearances were few but noteworthy, died Sept. 11 in Las Vegas. He was 75.

The cause was complications of a stroke he had on May 6, his wife, Madelyn, told the New York Times. He had previously received diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, she said.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1935, he was closely associated with another artist from that country, playwright Athol Fugard. In 1961, Mr. Mokae acted in Fugard's first major success as a writer, The Blood Knot, a two-character play about brothers who share the same mother but have different fathers. The siblings also differed in skin complexion, with Mr. Mokae playing Zach, the darker-skinned brother.

It premiered in South Africa, and marked the first time that black and white performers had appeared on the same stage in that country. From there, the production traveled to England, where it was again a success.

Mr. Mokae would return to the play again in 1985, reprising his role opposite Fugard himself on Broadway. The production was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.

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