Scenic Design by Buck Linton

Props Design by Susan DeConcini

Scenic Artist: Carrie Ballinger

Original Cast:

Jelimuso: Zenzelé Cooper

Sansouma Bereté/Singer: Nakeisha Daniel

Mansa KonFarra/Sumaworo: Rahsaan Kerns

​Sunjata/Diarra/Wulamba: Bruce Lemon

Percussion: Osei Kofi Williams

Percussion: Victor Marshall

Bala: Balla Kouyaté 

Sunjata Kamalenya (translated: Sunjata for Youth), is a completely interactive production which celebrates the greatest hero of West African legend, Sunjata Keita, the first mansa (king) of the ancient Empire of Mali.  The great 13th century epic takes place in a magical world filled with sorcery and enchantment.  A wandering hunter comes to the village of Farrakoro and makes the difficult to believe prediction that a crippled boy and his outcast mother will overcome all odds to deliver their nation from a despotic sorcerer warlord.  What follows is their adversarial struggles and the strength they derive from their faith in one another.  

Authentic music, costumes, and scenery invite you to a modern Mandé village where the jelimuso (storyteller) guides your journey as you sing, dance and act alongside professional actors and musicians in a truly unique experience. 

Most audiences that experience Sunjata Kamalenya here in America are hearing the story for the first time.  It is our ongoing commitment to faithfully bring the events of the Manden people’s Tariku (chronicle) to family audiences with the same excitement engendered in the music, dance and performance celebrated every day in countries such as Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and The Ivory Coast.  

written and directed by Christopher Parks

dramaturgy by Erica Nagel

historical consultant David Conrad

choreography by Dyane Harvey

musical composition Balla Kouyaté

Theatre Center 2011, 2012, 2013

All photgraphs courtesy of McCarter​​

Balla Kouyaté, one the world’s most  renowned balaphone players, joins us on tour for Sunjata Kamalenya.  In addition to playing live in our performances, Balla also arranged all of the traditional songs featured in our play and composed new work for the production. Originally from Mali, Balla comes from the renowned Kouyaté family of storytellers and musicians and we are very fortunate to have him on our creative team.

This play was first presented as a rehearsed reading in May 2010, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as part of New Visions/New Voices.

This play was developed as a staged-workshop performance at the McCarter Theatre Center, as part of the 2010 McCarter Lab.

If you are interested in bringing this one-of-a-kind production to your performing arts center, please be sure to reach out to Robin Klinger, at Robin Klinger Entertainment We have been touring throughout the United States and may be in your area some time soon.   

David Conrad, the world’s leading authority on the Sunjata epic, serves as our historical consultant.  His edited text, a transcription of Tassey Condé’s oral retelling of the great legend, is the primary source material for our script.  In addition, David’s vast knowledge, insight, and connections to Mandé society have been the foundation for all of our dramaturgical research.