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MINING THE DARKNESS

During apartheid, South African playwright and dance and theater director Jerry Pooe by necessity kept a low profile. His theater-dance pieces often dealt with forbidden subjects the white power structure didn't want to hear about.

Buffalo audiences may recall Pooe as playwright of "My Voice, My Life," the harrowing story of singer Patti Nokwe, that was presented at Ujima Theater Company a few seasons back. Last year Pooe brought his Eager Artists Theatre Company to town to take up a residency at the University at Buffalo and perform "The Living Room Project," a theatrical outreach that brought performers and storytellers right into people's homes.

Eager Artists returned to UB earlier in the fall for a second residency. The main and concluding event of the company's stay will be a dance and musical performance written and directed by Pooe called "Mine Ghosts" at 7:30 Sunday night in the Center for the Arts on UB's North Campus. The play's setting is the sometimes hellish South African mines.

Pooe's story in "Mine Ghosts" tells of an old man haunted by his memories of the life he lived working in the mines. Now worked out and about to be closed, the mine is too much a part of the old man's existence for him to give it up. He hides in the mine, only to meet the many ghosts which haunt it. Man and ghosts form a bound and together they re-live the days of their youth.

The story will be told through a capella music and various dances of South African origin. Among the dances will be the gumboot routines, based on actual dances created by the miners and performed in thick-soled rubber boots used in the wet mines. Originally, the dance was a kind of Morse code in which the workers would rhythmically hit their boots together in order to communicate with distance miners. Ultimately, gumboot dance evolved into a unique performance art.

While in town, Eager Artists worked with the Irish Classical Theatre Company and Arts in Education Institute of Western New York. Generally, the group is educationally oriented and often takes on such topics as AIDS, general health, the development of life skills and that all-embracing theme, peace.

Tickets for Sunday's performance are $8 to $10. Call 645- 2787 for more information.

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