On a continent brimming with mythic cultures, the Mandinka people of West Africa are sometimes overlooked. At Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the “Mande” people and their fabled founder will come to life Saturday in the Experiential Theater Company production of “Sunjata Kamalenya.”
Based on the legendary story of Sundiata Keita, who in the 13th century founded the Mali Empire, the play recalls the mythic life of an anointed yet outcast youth who rose to unite his people in peace and prosperity.
Christopher Parks, director and playwright, said he chose the story precisely because it is so little known in the United States. He said the story also proved to be a perfect fit for his brand of “experiential theater,” which invites audience members to play key roles in each production.
Parks spoke recently about the play’s one-day stop in Charlotte and the concept of audience participation. This Q&A was edited for brevity and clarity.