Centre for South African Theatre Research

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The Centre for South African Theatre Research (Acronym: CESAT, active 1979-1989) was an archive and documentation centre as well as a research facility and clearinghouse housed in the Institute for Languages, Literature and Arts of the Human Sciences Research Council

See also: Human Sciences Research Council and National Documentation Centre for the Performing Arts


The centre derives from the National Documentation Centre for the Performing Arts (1971-1978). In 1979, on the retirement of Rinie Stead, the HSRC appointed Temple Hauptfleisch as head and researcher with the commission to expand it into a far more active research centre. It was then renamed the Centre for South African Theatre Research (CESAT) and, while it continued collecting archival material on South African theatre and performance under the curatorship of Astrid Schwenke (née Astrid Schüler) and Joey Fourie, the centre now also undertook a number of specific research projects. Other CESAT staff members over the years included Paddy Terry, Eunice Reynecke, Wilma Viljoen, Celéste van Greunen, Lina Coetzer and Elma Young.

The CESAT Collection

This refers to the vast collection of theatre materials originally collected by the National Documentation Centre for the Performing Arts (1971-1979) and continued by the Centre for South African Theatre Research (CESAT – 1979-1989). When the HSRC moved to their own building in 198*, the four arts research centres combined their material in what became known as the South African Centre for Information on the Arts (SACIA), housed in a specially designed archival store. However, in a very controversial move by the HSRC, all the material in the arts collections (theatre, ballet, music and visual arts) held by the Human Sciences Research Council, was handed over to the National Archives of South Africa, Hamilton Street, Pretoria, in 1992, to be housed in the section formerly known as the National Film and Video Archives.

The CESAT Research

The research undertaken included studies by Temple Hauptfleisch and Eunice Reynecke of research methodology in the performing arts (e.g. Hauptfleisch 198* and 198*, Reynecke 198*), studies on the history of theatre (e.g Rinie Stead’s unpublished history of the National Theatre Organisation (1980), Hauptfleisch 1984a, Schwenke, 198*), studies on the sociology of theatre and theatre attendance (e.g Hauptfleisch 198*, 198*, 198*) and source guides on theatre in general and on specific topics (e.g. Viljoen, 198*, Hauptfleisch, Schuler and Van Greunen, 198*). The Centre also undertook focussed research on theatre in education over an extended period, with Paddy Terry and Temple Hauptfleisch as researchers in this field and served as secretariat for the SA Association for Drama and Youth Theatre (SAADYT), editing and publishing the SAADYT Journal for a number of years. Between 1986 - 1987 the Centre also provided the editorial offices for the newly launched South African Theatre Journal (SATJ), founded and edited by Temple Hauptfleisch and Ian Steadman.

The dismantling of CESAT

In 1988 Temple Hauptfleisch left the Centre for an academic position and to found the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies (CENTAPS) at the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department. Eunice Reynecke briefly took over the headship, but in 1989 the HSRC closed down the centre and transferred the documentation to the National Film Archives in Pretoria as the SACIA collection (see above). The research impetus moved to the University of Stellenbosch and its Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies.


Temple Hauptfleisch, 1985. The Breytie Book. Johannesburg: The Limelight Press

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