Alum Shirley Jo Finney directs landmark Mandela opera in South Africa

Production debuts in Johannesburg on Freedom Day, 2011


Theater alumna Shirley Jo Finney MFA ’73 will direct a landmark production of “The Passion of Winnie,” an opera about controversial South African politician Winnie Mandela, who was divorced by her husband, Nelson Mandela, shortly before the jailed ANC leader became the nation’s first Black president in 1994.

Composed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, a South African-born composer, musician and activist, the work will premiere in Johannesburg on April 27, 2011 — Freedom Day.

Finney’s recent production, “Stick Fly,” earned five nominations at the 2009-10 Ovation Awards, including one for Finney as Best Director. The play was an Ovation winner for Best Ensemble cast and has been nominated for Best Director, and in four other categories, at the 2010 Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards, and in the Ensemble Performance and Direction categories of The Garland Awards.

Finney’s acclaimed production of “Emmett Till,” at LA’s Fountain Theatre, has been extended through April 25.