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Being Robert Mugabe

Adam L. Brinklow | November 6, 2014 | Story Galleries and Performance

This month, actor L. Peter Callender becomes the notorious Zimbabwean ruler in Breakfast with Mugabe. Loosely based on real events, the play chronicles Robert Mugabe's sessions with a white psychiatrist during a time of escalating racial and political tensions. How do you make a ruthless tyrant appear sympathetic? Callender explains.

PRETEND IT’S RICHARD III
“This show is contemporary Shakespeare. I’ve played Richard III, the Scotsman, Leontes, and this character touches on all of those: the frightened despot. It’s important to like the person you’re playing.”

DON’T JUDGE
“I can’t think of Mugabe as a tyrant, a killer with the mass graves. I have to think of him as a husband, a father, a provider, about the upright way he was raised, his time as a political prisoner, and his brilliance.”

LET IT HURT
“Something makes him this way. Is it jealousy? Neglect? Pride? For Mugabe not to go to a black doctor but to a white psychiatrist who has suffered under his racist policies, and call on him to be his savior—that makes him very vulnerable, and that’s the key.”

Nov. 7-Dec. 7, Aurora Theatre

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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