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WSU will host Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, will participate in lectures and readings on the Pullman campus next month in conjunction with the WSU production of his play, “Death and the King’s Horseman.”

Born in Nigeria in 1934, Soyinka is a playwright, poet, novelist and political activist. His plays have been produced in Africa, London and New York.

“To have Wole Soyinka here at WSU is a major event,” said Peter Chilson, associate professor of English, journalist and fiction writer whose work is largely related to Africa. “He is not just a figure in international literary and dramatic arts, but also an important activist for human rights.”

Soyinka continued to write even from prison, where he was incarcerated in 1967 in the aftermath of Nigeria’s civil war. In 1993, his public demonstration against a military coup that prevented installation of a newly elected government resulted in his self-exile.

“He has emerged as a major critic of military government in Africa,” Chilson said.

“Death and the King’s Horseman” reflects Soyinka’s study of Greek classical drama as well as the clash of his native Yoruban culture with those of Nigeria and Great Britain. His depiction of tragic heroism, sacrifice and communal response result in what he has called a “densely mythological play.”

“Death and the King’s Horseman” will be presented at WSU’s Daggy Hall on Feb. 3-5 and 10-12.

WSU events featuring Soyinka include:

Thursday, Feb. 3
• English Department panel discussion of Soyinka’s play, “The Road,” noon-3 p.m., CUB Cascade Rooms, free to the public. The play is partly about Nigeria’s dangerous road culture (reckless drivers, poorly maintained cars and roads) and partly about the dangers and complications of African life in general. Panelists include: Chilson; Paul Brians, professor of English who studies Soyinka; Femi Euba, Nigerian actor, drama professor at Louisiana State University and friend of Soyinka; Loveday Gbara, WSU political science graduate student from Nigeria; WSU theater professor Terry Converse; and Simba Tirima, a Kenyan graduate student at UI who is active in the arts locally.

• Lecture on playwriting and literature, 6:30 p.m., Jones Theatre, Daggy Hall, free to the public.

• Performance, “Death and the King’s Horseman,” 8 p.m., Jones Theatre, Daggy Hall. Tickets cost $10 adults, $7.50 seniors, $5 WSU students and children, free to graduate students and spouses who show ID and sign for their tickets. Tickets are available at the Daggy Hall ticket office the weeks of the play 2-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, or one hour prior to performance. They may be reserved at 335-7236 or via e-mail at

• Panel discussion of the production, for playgoers only, 10:15 p.m., Jones Theatre, Daggy Hall. Panelists will include Soyinka, Brians, Chilson, play director Converse, theater instructor Phyllis Gooden-Young, theater professor Laurilyn Harris, UI theater assistant professor Nike Imoru and actor Euba.

Friday, Feb. 4
• Poetry reading, 3 p.m., Bryan Hall Theatre, free to the public.

• Reception, by invitation only, 5:30 p.m., Honor’s College.

• Performance, “Death and the King’s Horseman,” 8 p.m., Jones Theatre, Daggy Hall (see information above).

Saturday, Feb. 5
• Performance, “Death and the King’s Horseman,” 8 p.m., Jones Theatre, Daggy Hall (see information above).

Soyinka’s visit is sponsored and coordinated by the Visual, Performing and Literary Arts Committee; College of Liberal Arts; WSU Theatre Program; English Department; Office of Campus Involvement; STAGE, student theater group; and Humanities Washington, a nonprofit organization and public foundation providing cultural and educational programs to the people of the state.

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