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Market Theater Founder Dies

June 30, 1995

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Barney Simon, a founder of South Africa’s pioneering Market Theater and an internationally known director and writer, died Friday. He was 63.

Simon, who had been recovering at home from multiple bypass heart surgery earlier this month, was hospitalized Tuesday after suffering a mild heart attack, said John Kani, the Market Theater’s executive director. He died early Friday.

The Market Theater, which Simon and Mannie Manim founded in 1976, was the first in the country to present plays with multiracial casts to audiences that included blacks and whites _ against the law in apartheid South Africa.

The theater explored the brutality and injustice of South Africa under white minority rule with productions like ``Sarafina″ and ``The Island″ that won acclaim around the world. A movie version of ``Sarafina″ was released in 1992.

Simon’s ``understanding, compassion and wisdom touched everyone who came into contact with this great man _ a true visionary,″ Kani said. Simon was the Market’s artistic director at the time of his death.

``Sometimes you almost feel God is unfair,″ said South African playwright and director John Ledwaba. ``Why would he take a man who was able to light a fire in so many people’s lives?″

Simon’s best-known play is ``Woza Albert,″ a two-man musical about Christ returning to Earth in South Africa that he created with Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa. He won numerous local and international awards for direction, including Obies _ given to outstanding Off-Broadway productions _ for ``Woza Albert″ and ``Born in the RSA.″

He is survived by his brother, Tony. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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