Approaching Zanzibar had its premiere on April 8, 1989, at the Second Stage Theatre in New York City. It was directed by Carole Rothman, and featured Jane Alexander as Charlotte, Harris Yulin as Wally, Clayton Barclay Jones as Turner, and Angela Goethals as Pony, with Bethel Leslie as Olivia Childs.

Its production history includes a 1997 appearance at the Southwark Playhouse in London, and one at the Player’s Club in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, in 2016.

Playwright Howe drew inspiration for Approaching Zanzibar from her admiration for environmental, site-specific artists such as Christo (, her reaction to death both as a child and as a 50-year-old, and her childhood family dynamic. She used the Absurdist school of writing as a way to explore the quieter moments in the profound cycle of birth and death, about “the dailiness of women’s lives”, to give voice to the question of mortality “from a female perspective.”

Howe, Tina. Approaching Zanzibar and other plays. Theatre Communications Group, New York, NY. 1995.

The New York Times. “Review/Theatre; Trying to Outsmart Death with a Cross-Country Trip.” Rich, Frank. May 5th, 1989. Retrieved January 16th, 2017.

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