Brown Arts


January 27, 2024 (Concluded)
A developmental workshop and invited sharing of a new play.

An IGNITE Series Campus Project

Curated by The Department of Africana Studies / Rites and Reason Theatre

Hero is a heartwarming and suspenseful play that unfolds during a single, enchanting chapter in the life of Vuyo, a spirited middle school student. In a small, traditional South African town where gender norms are strictly adhered to, Vuyo and their  choir-mates, a vibrant and diverse group of young talents, find themselves at the center of an unspoken pact.

When the opportunity arises for Vuyo to masquerade as a girl to showcase their exceptional singing prowess in a national choir competition, the entire community embarks on a remarkable journey of transformation.

Hero is a tale of courage, unity, and the extraordinary power of music to challenge societal norms. In the face of deep-seated fear and uncertainty, Vuyo and their choir-mates embark on a journey of self-discovery, forging an unbreakable bond that carries them all through the highs and lows of the competition and life in newly post-apartheid South Africa.

Hero poster. Pink text on green background

Created by Shariffa Ali and Vuyo Sotashe. Presented by the Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre, produced in collaboration with Brown Arts Institute as part of the inaugural Brown Arts IGNITE Series. Originally commissioned by “The Hermitage Major Theater Award / The Hermitage Artist Retreat / Sarasota County, Florida in 2022.


Meet the creators of Hero!


Sharrifa Ali in emeral green shirt with braided hair in front of an orange background.

Shariffa Ali (Director)

Shariffa Ali is creative leader, navigating the realms of theatre, film, VR, and academia. Currently serving as the Director of Artistic Projects at The New Group, she is dedicated to advancing radical change through the transformative power of art and activism.

Residing in New York since 2013, Shariffa has distinguished herself as a director and community-engaged arts practitioner. Her directorial endeavors encompass a diverse portfolio, featuring films & VR experiences like "Atomu" and "You Go Girl!"—both selections at Sundance Festival in —and Off-Broadway and Regional theatre productions such “The Winters Tale”, "Mies Julie" and "School Girls; or The African Mean Girls Play."

Shariffa's achievements are underscored by a series of accolades, including the Sundance New Frontier Fellowship and the Royal National Theater R&D Fellowship in the UK. Noteworthy recognitions also include the POV/PBS Spark Grant, the Hermitage Major Theatre Award, and the Digital Lab Africa Award. Shariffa has served as the Patrick M. Swayzee Artist in Residence at Miami University and an Artist in Residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

In addition to her role at The New Group, Shariffa is a faculty member at Princeton University. Shariffa is a proud alumni of the Theatre and Performance studies program at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.


Vuyo Sotashe (Music Director / Performer)

Vuyo Sotashe is a New York based vocalist, composer, and performer originally from South Africa. Since moving to the United states as a Fulbright Scholar, he has performed with celebrated jazz legends including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jimmy Heath, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Barry Harris, and Winard Harper, to name a few. Recently, Vuyo appeared with multi Grammy Award winner and Pulitzer Prize winner Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as a featured artist on their 2018 Winter Tour across the United States. Sotashe has also appeared as a leader and sideman at the internationally acclaimed Montreux Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Fest, and Joy of Jazz, and Arcevia Jazz Festival. Sotashe is the recipient of the Van Lier Fellowship for Music at Joe's Pub/Public Theater for 2018-2019. He collaborated and performed in Somi Kakoma's debut theater work "Dreaming Zenzile", which was premiered at Joe's Pub, as well as the Apollo, and made his commercial-off-broadway debut as part of the cast in "Black Light", created by performance artist Daniel Alexander Jones in February and October of 2018. Sotashe has gone on to premier a new play, "Cartography" by Kaneza Schaal & Christopher Myres at the Kennedy Center in January of 2019, which will be at the New Victory Theater in January of 2020. Currently he performs as one of the fronting vocalists in the internationally touring, multi-disciplinary band collective Mwenso and the Shakes, while leading his own ensemble appearing on stages across the United States, and around the world. Sotashe continues to create, collaborate, record, and perform as an indelible creative voice both in his home country, New York City, as well as the international scene.



black and white headshot of Vuyo Sotashe



Headshot of Victoria Davidjohn


Victoria Davidjohn (Creative Producer)

Victoria Davidjohn is a second year Ph.D. student in the Africana Studies program at Brown University, where they study the creative process of Black theatrical works. Davidjohn’s academic work is informed by her professional experience in the theater industry, where she serves as the Assistant Director for MJ the Musical on Broadway and the First National Tour, and has previously served as the Associate Director for Into the Woods on Broadway and its U.S. Exclusive Engagement tour. She is a proud recipient of the Brown University Presidential Fellowship, the Martin A. Dale Fellowship, the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship, and the New York Women's Foundation Directing Apprenticeship.