Dave Ellinger

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Dave Ellinger is a salesman, photographer and set designer.


Dave Ellinger was born in July 1948 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, where he attended high school at Hamilton High School from 1961 to 1966. As a teenager, he saw live stage shows ranging from school productions to professional companies, classical music to flamenco, but did not participate. For two years he was a volunteer usher at the Bulawayo Theatre however, which he says did broaden his view of live stage shows.

He moved to Cape Town in 1968 and in 1969 began studying Pharmacy at the Cape Town Technical College. He settled in Muizenberg where he lived extremely close to the Masque Theatre on the Main Road, and got involved there as a volunteer, soon getting involved operating the lighting board or the sound tape deck, painting flats, or whatever was needed. He also had bit parts in a Xmas pantomime.

At that time he was also starting to enjoy an informal apprenticeship with two professional photographic studios, which led to him taking press publicity photographs and foyer photographs for the Masque Theatre. Word of mouth then led him to many other theatre groups, notably Sons of England in Claremont, where he again helped in any way possible, from set construction to stage management.

His photographic style was inspired partly by the work of the eminent theatre photographer and director Brian Astbury at the Space Theatre in Cape Town, and so it came about that he worked as a freelance photographer with many amateur dramatic societies in the Cape Town area between 1970 and 1975, supplying supplied hundreds of front-of-house enlargements for foyer display and for press publicity.

Om 1975 he became part of a spiritual community in the Paarl valley, and then undertook what he calls "a long detour" into Hotel Management at the Hohenort Hotel in Constantia and the Rob Roy Hotel, at Bothas Hill, before he joined Republican Press in 1984 as a staff photographer. He became the chief photographer in 1995, working on assignments for a variety of magazines until the editorial offices moved to Johannesburg in 2000.

From 2001 he worked for Whysalls Pty Ltd., the well-known photographic dealers, as a salesman until 2014.

Contribution to South African theatre, film, media and performance

In his period as freelance photographer in Cape Town, his clients included many amateur dramatic societies in the Cape Town area, for whom he produced hundreds of front-of-house enlargements for foyer display and for press publicity purposes, as well as creating sets for some shows.

The list of shows photographed in that period include:

For the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg:

The Changing Room (directed by Tony Mitchell), The Diary of Anne Frank (directed by Hymie Shapiro); Twelve Angry Men (directed by Tony Mitchell); To Dorothy, A Son (directed by Marcia Lawton); The Miracle Worker (directed by Roy Grant); Thunder Rock (directed by Tony Mitchell); Liola (directed by Pietro Nolte); Sailor Beware (directed by Elliot Playfair); Best of Friends (directed by Douglas Green); Chin-Chin (directed by Roy Grant); Private Lives (directed by Sol Rodsell; My Giddy Aunt (directed by Norman Sargeant); A Sense of Guilt (directed by Douglas Green) and The Man (directed by Douglas Green).

He also did the stage set for Thunder Rock for the Masque Theatre.

For the Sons Of England:

The Captives (directed by Douglas Green, Oct 1973); Caught Napping (directed by Peter Pickering, 1973); The Chalk Garden (directed by Jill Cooke, 1973); Doctor in the House (directed by Hymie Shapiro, April 1974); and Mary Stuart (directed by Fitz Morley, August 1974). Also responsible for the stage set for The Captives,

For the Little Theatre, Cape Town:

Voyage Round My Father (directed by Robert Mohr); The Hollow Crown (directed by Colin Pinney); Indians (directed by Mavis Taylor); Offending the Audience (directed by Robert Mohr) and Vices – A Comedy Of Sins (directed by Gisela Taeger-Berger).

For other companies and venues:

Gaslight (directed by Sol Rodsell, performed at the Temple Theatre).

A Man About the House (directed by Joyce Williams for the Strolling Players).

Separate Tables (directed by Roy Grant for the Strolling Players).

Towards Zero (directed by Dawn McClurg for the Savio Players).

The Laboratory (directed by Tony Murray for the Pinelands Dramatic Society).

The Lark (directed by Natasha Baker for Rustenberg Girls High School).

Blithe Spirit (directed by Aubrey Dwyer for the Cape Protea Players).

Intent to Murder (directed by Douglas Green for the Anchor Players).

Duet for Two Hands (directed by Norman Paul) and Lo And Behold (directed by Barbara McGuire), both for the Fish Hoek Dramatic Society.


E-mail correspondence from Dave Ellinger, January 2022.