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Madmen and Specialists

By Wole Soyinka

In the pursuit of power, must one abandon all one’s moral values?

A satirical tragedy by the Nobel Prize-winning African playwright

Department of Theatre & Drama

Arthur Miller Theatre

October 9 - 19, 2008


The Story: Written in 1971, Madmen and Specialists is a tragic satire of humankind immersed in war, although war is barely mentioned. Doctor Bero is a medical specialist whose talents have been perverted by his activities and power lust during the war. Sickened by the depth of his son’s corruption, his physician father goes to harrowing lengths to get his son to face the reality of what he has become. In turn Bero imprisons the old man and posts Mendicants, physically injured and psychologically damaged by the war and whom his father once treated, as his guards. As Bero attempts to extract the secret of the old man’s continued influence on the Mendicants, the two men confront each other on an amoral terrain where everything is permissible.

Artistic Significance:  Winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka is considered Africa’s greatest living playwright whose work includes Death and the King’s Horseman, The Trials of Brother Jero and The Lion and the Jewel. Madmen and Specialists stems from his 22-month detention during the Biafra civil war in Nigeria, much of which was spent in solitary confinement. The work combines Yoruba rituals of song and chant with sharp parody, creating deft plays-on-words that distorts their meaning while accentuating the potency of language. The New York Times described Soyinka’s drama as having “an almost Shakespearean soar…marvelous to listen to…[The play] forces, and deserves, attention.” A strong criticism of abuse of any type of power, Madmen chillingly explores the sequels of the spiritual, psychic, physical and symbolic devastation of humanity during war times.


Jonathan Christopher (Winchester, MA/Bermuda), Corey Dorris (Ypsilanti, MI), Laura Lapidus (Winnetka, IL), Seth Moore (Larchmont, NY), Joseph Moses (Troy, MI), Kelli Rasmus (Houston, TX), Dylan Saunders (Mill Valley, CA), Mckean Scheu (Lawton, MI), Meredith Stepien (Pinckney, MI), Joseph Walker (Cambridge, MA)


Madmen and specialists graphic


Director Mbala Nkanga
Scenic Designer Justin Lang
Costume Designer Jessica Hahn
Lighting Designer Mary Cole
Composer Kofi Ameyaw
Stage Manager Andres Holder

Production Photos

Click here to view photos from Madmen and Specialists


Click here to view the Madmen and Specialists program


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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower