Alexander Theatre

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Origins

Originally called the Johannesburg Repertory Theatre (popularly known as the Reps' Theatre), it was a 550 seater space in a Scandinavian design, which opened in Stiemens Street, Braamfontein as the permanent home of the Johannesburg Repertory Society (Johannesburg Reps) in November 1951.

The Alexander Theatre

In 1960 it was renamed the Alexander Theatre, in honour of Muriel Alexander the founder and longtime driving-force behind the Johannesburg Repertory Society (Johannesburg REPS) and the construction of the original theatre. This was done in an effort to eradicate the stigma attached to amateur theatre. The theatre was thereafter often used for professional work by the REPS’s own company as well as other companies. It was later leased by PACT and professional companies for their productions, including The Cherry Orchard (PACT, 1962), **** In 1978*? it finally sold the theatre the Arts Council who proceeded to use it as their Johannesburg base, alongside the Windybrow Theatre, but also letting it to other companies. ****EXPAND*** The Alexander finally closed in the 1990s with Ipi Thombi and by 1997 it was not being used anymore and fell into disrepair. In 2006 it was purchased and revamped by entrepreneur Adam Levy, as part of the urban revival process in Braamfontein spearheaded by Levy. The new space opened in June 2007 with Hazel Feldman’s production of the rock musical Rent. (See also Johannesburg Repertory Society and the Johannesburg Repertory Theatre below.) (See Gosher, 1988; Tucker, 1997; Kruger,1999; Du Toit 1988; Hoffmann, 1980, ) Alexander Theatre: The Reps Theatre was renamed the Alexander in tribute to its founder on 10 March 1960. The opening play was Hugh Goldie’s production of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra starring Beryl Gordon. Breytie Breytenbach concluded an arrangement with the Reps to lease the Alexander as a Johannesburg home for the National Theatre. André Huguenet made his final appearance in The Prisoner for the National Theatre at the Alexander in 1961. The National Theatre presented Eugene O'Neill’s A Touch of the Poet at the Alexander in 1961. It was directed by the American Margaret Webster, and starred Marda Vanne and Johann Nell. Leon Gluckman’s revue, Wait a Minim! was staged here in 1962 with musicians Andrew and Paul Tracey, Kendrew Lascelles and Jeremy Taylor. Anthony Farmer was the set designer. They toured the country for eleven months. Roy Cooke invited the husband-and-wife team of Louis Burke and Joan Brickhill to stage their production of Oklahoma! at the Alexander in 1963/4. John Fernald directed Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard here for PACT, starring Jenny Laird, Siegfried Mynhardt, Patrick Mynhardt, Arthur Hall, Estelle Kohler and Fiona Fraser in 1963. Louis Burke and Joan Brickhill presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Alexander in 1964 to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Robert Lang was the stage manager. The Reps staged the musical Pickwick, directed by James Gillhouley, starring Paul Whitsun-Jones, at the Alexander in 1965. The Reps also staged The Deputy (also known as The Representative) here in 1965. What Was, Was! by Gertie Awerbuch and Miriam Lopert was staged here in 1956. It starred June Hern, Charles Stodel and Michael Fisher and was also staged at the Jewish Guild. Victor Melleney directed an adaptation of War and Peace and Peter Ebert directed John Whiting’s The Devils at the Alexander for PACT in 1966. Among the local actors kept in steady employment by these PACT productions were Siegfried Mynhardt, John Whiteley, Ronald Wallace, Arthur Hall, Kerry Jordan, Maureen McAllister and Shirley Firth. The Reps staged a revival of Ninio’s production of Twelve Angry Men here circa 1966. James Gillhouley directed Trap For a Lonely Man, starring Jenny Gratus, and Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife at the Alexander in 1966. Ricky Arden directed Travelling Light and According to the Evidence starring Diane Wilson and Elaine Lee here in 1966. Frank Shelley staged The Anniversary, starring Erica Rogers and Ian Hamilton in 1966. Toerien-Rubin staged James Ambrose-Brown’s The Years of the Locust at the Alexander, starring Johann Nell, Frank Shelley and Yvonne Bryceland in 1966. The Reps staged Forever April here, starring Frank Shelley in 1967. The Reps staged Hostile Witness, starring Michael Atkinson and Seidman and Son, starring David Kossof, Simon Kossoff, and Jenny Gratus at the Alexander in 1967. Hugh Goldie staged A Day in the Life Of… starring English actor Harry Towb and his wife Diana Hoddinott here for the Reps in 1967. Leonard Schach came back to direct Shaw’s Heartbreak House for PACT at the Alexander in 1967. It starred Joan Blake, Siegfried Mynhardt, Alec Bell, Elizabeth Meyer, Kerry Jordan, François Swart, Frank Lazarus and Maggie Soboil. Monte Doyle’s thriller Dead Silence was staged here in 1967. James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter was staged here in 1967. It was directed for PACT by Taubie Kushlick with Joe Stewardson and Marika Mann in the cast. Albert Ninio directed the Feydeau farce A Flea in Her Ear which was staged here for the Reps in 1967. It starred Hal Orlandini, Shelagh Holliday, James White and Gordon Mulholland. The Reps staged Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny, starring Vanessa Cooke here in 1967. David Kossoff starred in Big Night for Shylock which was staged here in December 1967, and was directed by David Scase. The Reps presented their last season here in 1969, starting with Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion, directed by Charles Hickman and starring Davy Kaye. Noël Coward’s Red Peppers was the curtain-raiser. Hickman also directed Coward’s Present Laughter, with Margaret Inglis, Bernard Brown, Jenny Gratus and Gordon Mulholland at the Alexander in 1969 as the final production for the Reps. Roy Sargeant directed Pinero’s The Magistrate starring John Hayter for PACT at the Alexander in 1969. Robert Mohr directed King Lear, starring Joe Stewardson and Hadrian VII starring Siegfried Mynhardt for PACT in 1969. Leonard Schach directed A Month in the Country for PACT, starring Vivienne Drummond, Erica Rogers, Kerry Jordan and Siegfried Mynhardt in the same year. Toerien-Rubin brought Dames at Sea to the Alexander in 1969. It was directed by Don Liberto. Toerien-Rubin staged Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels at the Alexander circa 1970. It starred Hermione Gingold and Joan Heal. Hymie Udwin’s Academy obtained the rights to West Side Story and it was staged here in 1970. It starred Michael Harrison, Patricia Arnell, Lynton Burns and Richard Loring, Delia Sainsbury and Keith Galloway. Kip Andrews directed and choreographed while Anthony Farmer did the set design. Paul Jannsen was the stage director, Joy Raphael oversaw public relations and Lorraine Jaffit-Greenberg acted as production secretary. Langford-Inglis, Academy Theatre Productions and PACT collaborated to present Max Adrian’s one-man show of readings from George Bernard Shaw at the Alexander in 1971. The Langford-Inglis and Hymie Udwin production of The Old Ladies, starring Inglis, Zoe Randall and Bess Finney was staged here in 1971. Rex Garner directed The Lionel Touch, starring Joe Stewardson, Vivienne Drummond, Kenneth Baker and Diane Appleby for The Academy Theatre of Laughter at the Alexander in 1971. Taubie Kushlick celebrated forty years in the theatre with a production of Forty Carats starring Glynis Johns, Gordon Mulholland, Fiona Fraser and James Leith at the Alexander in 1971. In 1972 PACT/TRUK, under directorship of François Swart, staged Shakespeare’s Richard III directed by Ken Leach, John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, directed by Taubie Kushlick, John Hussey’s production of the Peter Shaffer double bill Black Comedy and White Liars with Ruth Oppenheim and Eckard Rabe, and Truida Louw’s Afrikaans production of Schiller’s Maria Stuart, all of which took place at the Alexander. PACT took on the lease of the Alexander long-term in 1972. Taubie Kushlick staged No, No, Nanette there in 1972. PACT staged Donald Howarth’s A Lily in Little India and Three Months Gone here in 1973, starring Helen Bourne, Barbara Kinghorn and Frantz Dobrowsky. Jack Klaff starred in the latter. Charles Marowitz’s A Macbeth was staged here in 1973. It starred Molly Seftel, Siegfried Mynhardt, Billy Matthews and Ken Leach. Patrick Mynhardt was seen in More Jerepigo, François Swart directed Molière’s Tartuffe and Barney Simon directed Six Characters in Search of an Authorat the Alexander in 1973. Adam Small’s Kanna Hy Kô Hystoe was staged here in 1974. Wilna Snyman starred in this play for which she received a best actress award. Robin Maugham’s Enemy!, directed by Robert Mohr, was staged here by PACT in 1974. Mohr also directed Elizabeth I for PACT at the Alexander in 1974. PACT staged Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, directed by Hussey, choreographed by Geoffrey Sutherland and starring Richard Loring, Bruce Millar and Alvon Collison here in 1974. Ken Leach directed The Story of an African Farm, adapted by André Brink from Olive Schreiner’s novel starring Annelisa Weiland and Robert Mohr directed The Tempest with Patrick Magee, Paul Slabolepszy, Bill Flynn and Michael Richard at the Alexander for PACT in 1975. Ian Ferguson’s Falstaff with Richard Haines was staged by PACT at the Alexander in 1976. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, directed by John Hussey and starring Diane Wilson, Danny Keogh and Michael McCabe was also staged by PACT in 1976. Session, which was workshopped by company members and directed by Richard Haines was staged here by PACT in 1976. Ken Leach directed Feydeau’s A Flea in her Ear with Frantz Dobrowsky, Dorothy Ann Gould, Diane Wilson, Richard Haines, Paul Slabolepszy, Michael Richard, Annelisa Weiland and Lesley Nott, and Pieter Fourie’s Conspiracy, starring Patrick Mynhardt for PACT at the Alexander in 1976. PACT staged the musical Chicago in January 1977 at the Alexander. Direction and choreography were done by Geoffrey Sutherland, it starred Annabel Linder and Judy Page and Hazel Feldman did publicity. PACT presented Simon Gray’s Butley, directed by François Swart with Michael McCabe at the Alexander in 1977. Leonard Schach’s production of an Afrikaans version of The Diary of Anne Frank with Elise Hibbert and the 19th-century comedy London Assurance directed by and starring Michael Atkinson was also staged here by PACT in 1977. Hamlet was staged here in 1978. William Gibson’s Golda, directed by Leonard Schach and starring Thelma Ruby was staged here in 1978. Rex Garner directed himself, Melody O’Brian and George Korelin in What More Could She Want at the Alexander in 1979. The Academy presented For Love or Money at the Alexander starring Jimmy Logan in 1979. Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, previously known as Ten Little Niggers, directed by Charles Hickman and starring Stuart Brown, Eckard Rabe and Yvonne Banning was staged here in 1980. PACT staged Macbeth with Ron Smerczak and Sandra Prinsloo, and directed by Leonard Schach here in 1980. Roy Sargeant directed Sheridan’s School of Scandal starring John Hussey, Erica Rogers, Richard Haines and Bobby Heaney at the Alexander in 1980. Henry Rootenberg’s Zeyda was staged here starring Nicholas Ellenbogen, Molly Seftel and Frantz Dobrowsky in 1981. Diane Todd and Robin Dolton brought Bob Wright and Chet Forrest to oversee the world premiere of their musical I, Anastasia set to a score by Rachmaninov in 1981. PACT staged William Gibson’s Monday After the Miracle, the sequel to The Miracle Worker starring Sandra Duncan and Pamela Gien with direction by François Swart here in 1982. Aubrey Berg’s production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Lena Ferugia, Ron Smerczak and Victor Winding was staged here by PACT in 1982. William Egan directed an Afrikaans translation of The Taming of the Shrew called Die Vasvat van ‘n Feeks starring Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo for PACT in March 1983. PACT presented John Osborne’s The Entertainer starring Michael Atkinson, Helen Jessop, Stuart Brown, Kate Edwards and Gina Benjamin here in June 1983. William Egan’s production of Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana starring Eric Flynn, Sandra Duncan, Annabel Linder and Anthony James was staged here by PACT in 1983. Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue starring Michael McCabe and Erica Rogers and directed by Ken Leach was staged here by PACT in 1983. Pieter-Dirk Uys’ The Rise and Fall of the First Empress Bonaparte starring Jacqui Singer, Ron Smerczak and Michael McCabe was directed by William Egan and staged here by PACT in August 1983. PACT revived Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena starring Nomsa Nene and directed by Marius Weyers here in 1983. PACT staged Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail starring Neil McCarthy and directed by Norman Coombes here in February 1984. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Michael McCabe, Jacqui Singer, Andrew Buckland and Carol-Ann Kelleher and directed by William Egan was staged here by PACT in May 1984. Bobby Heaney directed an Afikaans translation of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons called My Seuns starring Louis van Niekerk, Johan Engelbrecht and Lida Botha here for TRUK in 1984. PACT staged David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross starring Bill Flynn, Wilson Dunster, Anthony Fridjhon and Dale Cutts under Bobby Heaney’s direction here in 1985. Michael Frayn’s adaptation of Chekhov’s comedy called Wild Honey starring Michael Richard and Jana Cilliers under Bobby Heaney’s direction was staged here in August 1986. PACT-Drama Playhouse presented Malcolm Farquhar production of James Roose-Evans’s adaptation of Cider with Rosie here in February 1987. Basil Rubin and Pieter-Dirk Uys co-presented Panorama here in 1987. PACT revived Look Back in Anger, directed by François Swart, and presented Mark Rozovsky’s Strider, directed by Terrence Shank here in 1987. PACT’s first pantomime, Janice Honeyman’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, also directed by Honeyman was staged here in 1987. Max Collie performed here in 1988. Dieter Reible directed Die Storm (The Tempest) for TRUK in 1989. PACT staged Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood here in 1989. PACT’s annual pantomime was Janice Honeyman’s The Sleeping Beauty in 1990. TRUK staged Die Sakeman van Venesie here in 1991. PACT’s annual pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was staged here in 1991. PACT presented Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman here in 1992. PACT staged Romeo and Juliet here in 1992. PACT and Radio 702 presented Grease here in 1992. PACT and People’s Theatre staged The Wizard of Oz here in 1993. PACT’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches was staged here in 1994. *** (Tucker, 1997) NTO & Alexander-teater: The Glass slipper. Met Alex is ooreenkoms gesluit om jaarliks 6 NTO Prod. Op die planke te bring. Ook gesamentlike stukke van moeilike werke, NTO het nou ‘n tuiste in JHB en Alex. Sal sy produksies in die NTO se skouburg in PTA opvoer. The Gay Invalid (Moliere) met Andre Huguenet. Die Alex teater deur die Repertory Players in Jhb gebou met fondse wat hulle ingesamel het deur die jare. Ledetal: 2500.

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