Ben Dehaeck

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Ben Dehaeck (1922-2017) was a lawyer, property owner, mime artist, puppeteer, theatre manager, actor, director, playwright, lecturer

Also written Ben de Haeck, Ben DeHaeck, Benoni Dehaeck and Benoni de Haeck on occasion.


Born Benoni Dehaeck in Roebrugge-Haringhe on 29 December 1922, the son of a baker. He trained as lawyer at Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven, then worked as an advocate in Ghent from 1950 till 1964, but as a passionate lover of theatre, poetry and philosophy, he actively participated in theatre and poetry readings in the city.

He met and married Jesje in 195* and the couple had * children.

He died in Stellenbosch in February 2017.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He and his family came to South Africa in 1965 at the behest of Fred Engelen, to work as a drama lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, initially for two years, but he ultimately remained at the Department of Drama till 1987. An immensely energetic and creative lecturer, actor, director and guide, he inspired two generations of students, particularly with his interests in the absurdist theatre, puppetry and improvisational work. In this period he also began to write original plays and do numerous translations.

In the early 1980s De Haeck took over from actor André Roothman as the part-time drama teacher of the Cloetesville Senior Secondary School Drama Group, and promptly started doing puppetry and theatre, involving his students from the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department. (This was to remain a tradition even after he retired).

In 1983 the school won what was to become the first of many awards at the annual Department of Culture's Theatre Festival, with Tone Brulin’s play Kontiki (directed by Dehaeck). In this year De Haeck first named the group the Breughel Teatergroep ("Breughel Theatre Group"), with himself as its main driving force and director.

In 1988, having obtained a plot of ground from the municipality in Noordend Street, Cloetesville, Dehaeck and the company built and settled into a large multi-purpose theatre called Die Breughel Teater (The Breughel Theatre). (See also Breughel Theatre Group.)

Quite a prolific author, he wrote (and usually directed) many plays for the Breughel group, including Ballade van Rama en Mara (first performance 1975); Lucy Strata (Joint winner at the Kellerprinz-Drama Festival, 1986), Improvisasie Kontiki (), Die Koningin en die Nar (1987 ATKV Kampustoneel) and Die Spel van Wit en Swart(1990) Kampustoneel, H.B. Thom Theatre) Commedia Rituale (1991 ATKV Kampustoneel and Breughel Theatre); Die Wraak van Ex-koningin Bobbit (1994, awarded best youth drama in Afrikaans by the Department of Education and Culture in the Western Cape); Die Gangsters (1997, toured Belgium); Die Komiese Danser (1999).

Besides the plays directed for the Breughel Theatre, he also directed a number of departmental plays for production in the H.B. Thom Theatre, among them Yerma (1966); Koning Ubu (1968); Die Jakkalsstreke van Scapino (1986). For the Libertas Theatre Club he performed in Ionesco's The Lesson (1975).

As an actor, he also performed leading roles in many productions in the department, including Macbeth (1967, directed by Fred Engelen); Legende van die Liefde (1979, directed by Ria Olivier); Germanicus (1971, directed by Ria Olivier); Die Streke van Reinaard die Vos (1977, directed by Herman Pretorius); Noag (1979, directed by Jannie Gildenhuys).

Awards, etc

Received a Vita Award in 1990 for his contribution to drama training and community theatre in the Western Cape and a Fleur du Cap Lifetime Award in 1997 for the same reason.

Woordfees Award for Lifetime Achievement 2016


Die Burger, 11 April 1990.

Erns Grundlingh[1]. 2016. "Applous vir 'n Legende". Stellenbosch Visio, Autumn 2016: pp. 92-95.

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