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Testimonials

A selection of responses collected from Cape Town SA, South Bend USA,  Cambridge USA, Dublin USA and New York USA

Bo Petersen is the real deal, my friends. Every time I see her on stage, I’m reminded how theatre can change the world.

See this show.

Let Bo intoxicate you with her story, her poetry, her creative prowess.

Aaron Nichols

28-30 April 2023

South Bend, IN, USA

I felt an opening of my soul, a kindred spirit connection ... 

 

For once I sat in a context with coloured people and thought: "I belong!" 

 

This is what your piece brought for me and I am humbled and filled with gratitude. Your story has opened me to the knowing that there are others 'like me' and that I am NOT the stigma associated with me because I am a coloured woman.

Colette Pontac

8, 10 January 2023

Cape Town, South Africa

The material and the conversation afterwards was profound. For the first time in my life (I’m 56) I was able to have a frank conversation with a friend of colour about colour based on the play and the discussion– and realise how impoverished we all have been by our past.

Sheila Duchenne 

8, 10 January 2023 

Cape Town, South Africa

I fell into the story fully ...

... I kept seeing my father's face, hearing his voice, and remembering the impact on me and my siblings of what he went through as a German Jewish boy in the 1930's, a refugee to this country in his teens and then an American soldier deployed in Europe (he lied about his age) fighting the soldiers whose country's leaders (and many more) wanted to destroy him and everyone like him ...

 

 

... There were no secrets in my family in the most literal meaning of the word, but there was a sense of unspeakable truths ... 

 

... And I, as the blond-haired, blue-eyed member of a family that mainly looked quite Semitic,  could '"Pass"; in my own way.  As did my dad to some degree,  as he managed to completely lose his accent... unlike his sister, only a few years older, who spoke English with a noticeable if subtle German accent for her entire life.  

Such differences in these stories yet such commonality too.

Anon

14 June 2023

Cambridge, MA, USA

I had no idea just how deeply moving a piece of story-telling this would be, and how much Bo's skill, depth, and passion as an actor/writer would take me places I hadn't anticipated. 

The mix of this play's historical frame and its deeply personal and heart-breaking narrative was incredible - it's hard to find words for its power.

Anon

14 June 2023

Cambridge, MA, USA

Bo's story-writing and acting ability is absolutely brilliant, but this was a very different production ... an honestly painful, yet immensely liberating revelation. 

Anon

8, 10 January 2023

Cape Town, South Africa

I won't forget the experience of watching Bo, listening to her, and taking in the power of Pieces of Me for a long, long time.”

Anon 

17 June 2023

Dublin, NH, USA

We immediately began talking about how profoundly moved we continue to be by this extraordinary work.
 
I think that Sarah belongs in the pantheon of great South African women along with Lena and Helen. Bo's embodiment of Sarah for me was transcendent.
 
What fills my mind at present is the terrifying loneliness of Bo's father.

   

Paul Stopforth

14 June 2023

Cambridge, MA, USA

I thought I would have heard it all before, but the evening was incredibly moving. A delicately drawn portrayal of personal and family pain, without anger or blame. A sitting with the tragedy, stillness, resignation, and compassion in the discomfort, and that’s the place from which things can move forward.

Caroline Wicht

8, 10 January 2023 

Cape Town, South Africa

Pieces Of Me was incredibly moving. It was a visceral reminder of the pain of identity, belonging, longing, loss and betrayal caused by apartheid, made personal and specific via the story of Bo's father and his family. A remarkable and brave achievement.

David Wicht

8, 10 January 2023

Cape Town, South Africa

... a mesmerizing journey, a journey of discovery that started before Bo was born, driven by her deep seated love for her father, Ben, and her hunger to reveal and quench the painful flames of secrecy that clouded his life.

Simon Sephton

8, 10 January 2023 

Cape Town, South Africa

... rich, engaging, moving, powerful, complex - each character compellingly portrayed with such an aliveness - the use of humour and intensity, masterful.

Anon

8, 10 January 2023 

Cape Town, South Africa

This made so many connections for me even though I am not from South Africa. In my country, we too have colorism, and secrets

Anon

29 June 2023

New York, NY, USA

This is a very powerful story, which will resonate with many. It is very healing... your play helped me shed a layer of pain which I did not know I was still carrying.
Empathy is truly the key:
Ubuntu

Victor Begun

17 June 2023

Dublin, NH, USA

Kudos to South Bend Civic Theater on hosting performances of Pieces of Me with Bo Petersen. What a gut-wrenching, eye-opening exploration of living with racial intolerance it was. Long after I'd left the theater I kept thinking about it.
 Letter to South Bend Tribune Editor

Anne Kolaczyk

28-30 April 2023

South Bend, IN, USA

What Bo is doing is SO important. She is addressing the "devilish success of apartheid" and the desperate terrible institutional and personal legacy left in its wake, compellingly and powerfully on a personal level and initiating this kind of necessary overdue debate.

Seton Bailey

8, 10 January 2023

Cape Town, South Africa

What a courageous piece of theatre, and still so painfully relevant

Anon

29 June 2023

New York, NY, USA

... a thought provoking and courageous piece of theatre - the narrative, Bo's performance, the conversation.

Pat Orpen

8, 10 January 2023

Cape Town, SA

“Pieces of Me” is about family, love, duty, the art of acting, and Bo ties it all together beautifully. 
 
“Pieces of Me” shows the way oppressive national politics impacts family dynamics, and often leads to generational trauma. Bo's performance is a powerful statement of selfhood and rejection of the divisions imposed by the laws of apartheid.
 
I found the show to be thoughtful, moving, and necessary.

N. Honwana

29 June 2023

New York, NY, USA

Marina Griebenow - Freelance Theatre Critic, Die Burger newspaper, Cape Town

 

PETERSEN EXPOSES PIECES OF HER LIFE 


‘This legislation is part of my personal history’. It seems like yesterday that actress Bo Petersen gave a blistering performance in Athol Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act in Theatre Arts in Observatory. It was fitting therefore that we gathered in exactly the same venue last Sunday for an excerpt from Pieces of Me, her biographical play, as both plays have the consequences of apartheid legislation as their point of departure.

“The landscape of the play resonates on many levels for me, the brutal legislation is part of my personal history,” Petersen said in 2011 about her role in Statements. Those of us who read this particular remark then only fully understood its meaning when we saw Pieces of Me recently. 

Benjamin Johannes Petersen, also known as Benny, was a coloured man who was classified as white in the apartheid years and lived the rest of his life as a white man. He graduated from university, worked as a manager for one of the large mining companies, married a white woman and had five children, among others the well-known actress Bo. They did not find their isolation from family and friends strange at that point. Everything revolved around their small family unit.

Bo says that she only became aware of her father’s decision as a 19-year old when she went to visit the poet S.V. Petersen in Athlone, where he was working as a school principal. “S.V. Petersen was not related to us, though he grew up with my father and his family – the other Petersens. It was such a long time ago. My memory is that he was fascinated by my father, but I think politically he was on the other side of the Unity Movement. He didn’t give me much advice, but I think he understood my need to know,” she remembers.

 

In response to a question as to why she waited until now to tell her father’s story, she responds: “I really needed to wait. For my father in particular. For him to be safe. And he could really only be safe in death. I needed to protect my mother too, I guess. I have been writing these pieces all my life, trying to work out this new identity that I knew I had but somehow was still isolated from.

“In Oslo last year I suddenly knew what I needed to do, courtesy of our ambassador, Delores Kotze. In a way, she was my midwife. The work is still in its very early stages, but in September we are going to refine and perform it at the Nordic Black Theatre in Oslo.”

“It was very difficult for me to perform it a few nights ago with my family there, because I felt that there was so much at stake.”

One remembers that in the excerpt that she performed, she explained that not all her siblings and even some of her newer family members were necessarily enamoured with her exposure of her father’s life and his far-reaching decision. His decision, obviously, also had an influence on their lives.

“It was wonderful to have both my cousins, Christopher and Michael, at the performance. Christopher has been a wonderful cousin to me. I wish I had been a young cousin with him. But, here we are! His mother, Aunt Daphne, was a truly wonderful woman, as was Michael’s mother, Aunty Sarah. I felt that I had to do right by them.”

Her memories of her father is of a generous and intelligent man with the most beautiful smile. “I just liked being still with him – sitting with him, just being in his presence. My father also taught me about human dignity and to speak up and speak out about injustices.

“He was a great storyteller, but above all he loved my mother and all of us very much, and we loved him.”

Apparently Petersen’s father regularly admonished them with the following famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “This above all – to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

It could’ve been ironic, except that one knows that Benny Petersen had to have something within him to which he could remain true in order to endure, until the end of his days, the consequences of his torturous decision.


Pieces of Me has been very emotional here, but it is a tribute to my father and to my mother – to my whole family from both sides of the flimsy fence. 

 

“There the fence lies – nice and flat and where it ought to be. No place left for it in our family,” she concludes.

Translated into English from the original review in Afrikaans.

Die Burger review.PNG
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