Dorcy Rugamba (Director/Cast) survived the Rwandan genocide because, at the time, he was 80 miles away from his family home in Kigali. His father, mother and six of his siblings were killed on the first day of the massacre. Two sisters, also away from home, survived, as well as their 16-year-old brother, who somehow lived when soldiers rounded up the family and shot them. The 24-year-old Rugamba escaped into neighboring Burundi.
After settling in Belgium, encounters with other Rwandan refugees led him to study theater in order to tell his country’s story and to reconnect to the world of his childhood. The result, in 1999, was Rwanda 94, a six-hour piece about the genocide with a cast of 40, which premiered at the Avignon Festival in France and toured for the next four years to Europe, Canada and the Caribbean. In 2004, 10 years after the genocide, they performed the piece for the Rwandan public in Butare, Kigali and Bisesero, Rwanda. According to Rugamba, the process “rebuilt” him and, for the survivors who experienced it, the production was “like bursting a boil.”
In Kigali in 2001, Rugamba founded Urwintore, a space for creation and research in the performing arts. In 2004, he played Amkoulel in the world tour of Tierno Bokar directed by Peter Brook, an adaptation of the book by Amadou Hampate Ba. In 2005, Dati’mbeti Press published Rugamba’s book, Marembo, which recalls his family’s last days in Rwanda. In October 2005, with Rwandan actors from Urwintore, Rugamba directed The Investigation, a docu-drama by Peter Weiss based on the Frankfurt War Crimes trials concerning the atrocities committed at Auschwitz. This production was presented in Butare and Kigali in Rwanda, the Liège Festival in 2005 and later at Peter Brook’s Theatre Bouffes du Nord (Paris), the Culture Centre of Ans (Belgium) the Young Vic Theatre (London) and Yokohama (Japan).
In 2006, Rugamba played the role of Apemantus in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, directed by Habib Nagmouchin at the Theatre de la Boutonnière in Paris. The National Theatre of Belgium and the Liège Festival produced Bloody Niggers!, written by and featuring Rugamba. The play was performed in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Mali in 2007. In 2008, Rugamba played James Baldwin in an adaptation of Baldwin’s Fire Next Time.
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