2023 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Mutu Sakata: My DC Story’

A fictional play based on the semi-real, fully imagined life of a Black Mississippi woman living in Washington, DC.

By Renee Namkau Ombaba

Editor’s note: Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Capital Fringe Festival (July 12 to 23), and DC Theater Arts has offered space to ten Fringe producers to describe their shows in their own words. Check back for more 2023 Capital Fringe previews!

Mutu Sakata: My DC Story came into being because of a boy. Although as the playwright I wish I had some more noble reason for creating this project, I am happy that it will inspire more women to love themselves, especially Black women. Mutu sakata is a phrase used by the Lozi tribe of Western Zambia for what it means to be genuinely human.

I chose this title because I wanted to use language from my culture. I started with the idea of being fully human, and my uncle did the translating.

In this play, I personify the phrase and place myself at the center of this new work through a character named Mutu. The character of Mutu, who is based on me, narrates the struggles, pains, and triumphs I faced moving to a new city: Washington, DC. Similar to shows like A Black Lady Sketch Show, Mutu animates my story with various comedic and dramatic characters. With a name that means to be “genuinely human” both to the self and to society, Mutu battles isolation, loneliness, and the overwhelming feeling she’s not enough.

Mutu faces her deepest wounds and embraces the most broken parts of herself to create something truly magical and genuinely human.

People have described me as sweet, determined, and compassionate, but few know the road it took to get there. I came to DC as one person, and one year in, that girl was killed by sexual assault. I never told anyone until I got into an improvised monologue show co-directed by Krystal Ramseur Ali [director of Mutu Sakata]. Krystal made me and the entire cast feel safe and powerful. I knew if I ever told my truth, she’d be a part of it.

Krystal R. Ali started her acting career in high school ending her senior year as Beatrice from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Krystal is currently a director, performer, and teacher at Washington Improv Theater. She describes Mutu Sakata: “What started as a little crush sparked a movement of self-discovery and self-actualization for Black women.”

Every great actor like Whoopi Goldberg, Viola Davis, and Jennifer Lewis has put on a one-woman show. I wanted to follow in their footsteps and create an opportunity for myself to be brave and vulnerable. I’m hoping that sharing my story will change someone’s life. Suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety look different on Black women especially those who grew up in the Bible Belt. This play opens the door for a discussion on how Black women can recognize the signs in themselves and their sisters.

Running Time: 50 minutes

Mutu Sakata: My DC Story plays July 14 to 23, 2023, at Rind – 1025 Thomas Jefferson. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. 

Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Suicidal Ideation, Depression and Anxiety; Racial and Physical Violence against Black Women.

Director: Krystal Ali
Playwright: Renee Namakau Ombaba
Performers: Renee Namakau Ombaba, Krystal Ali

Renee Namakau Ombaba is a multifaceted artist known for opera, acting, and comedy improv. Since receiving her degree in 2012, she has performed such roles as Juliette, the Queen of the Night, and Contessa di Almaviva. Her feature roles include Hero in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Horatio in Hamlet, and Juror #2 in Twelve Angry Women. In 2023, she made her Kennedy Center debut with her improv team Baggage Claim. You can find her performing with the WIT House team Nox. Mutu Sakata: My DC Story is her debut as a playwright.


The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.

SEE ALSO: 2023 Capital Fringe Festival to pop up in Georgetown and Dupont (news story, April 28, 2023)


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