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The name of the supposed founder of modern day theatre, is found BOTH as the name of a theatre and debating society in Paarl and as the pseudonym used by a number of theatre critics

The original Thespis

Thespis (Θέσπις in the original Greek, fl. 6th century BC)[1] was a singer of dithyrambs and a playwright from Icaria who is reputed (notably by Aristotle) to have been the founder of theatre as we know it, when he introduced the first principal actor in addition to the chorus in his performances. Other sources argue that he was the one to introduce a new style in which one singer or actor performed the words of individual characters in the stories, distinguishing between the characters with the aid of different masks. What is documented is that Thespis was the winner in the first documented Dionysia (festival of tragedy) to be held in ancient Athens in 534 BC.[2].

Thespis has thus been used as the names of theatre companies, publications and critics over the subsequent centuries and the term thespian (for a performer or actor) also derives from his name.

Thespis: the theatre and debating society

The first Dutch language "Rederijkerskamer" or theatre and debating society in South Africa, established in the Paarl, was named Thespis, being mentioned for the first time in a poem by J. Suasso de Lima entitled "De Paarl en 'Thespis' Rederijkers", dated 6 July 1858.

[TH, JH]

"Thespis": The theatre critic

"Thespis" was taken as a pseudonym by a number of theatre critics, internationally and in South Africa, over the years.

South African instances include:

In the 1850s someone wrote under this name in Cape Town for The Monitor (e.g. on 14 July 1852).

In the 1940s-1950s a critic for the Helikon also wrote under this name. See for example the reviews of Much Ado about Nothing (Helikon 1(2):13-14) and Deep are the Roots (Helikon, 1(2):114-15).


"Thespis" in Wikipedia[3].

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928: pp. 402-3; Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge. 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

P.J. du Toit, 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

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"Thespis" in Wikipedia[4].