Deon Opperman

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Deon Opperman (1962-) is a prolific and influential playwright, director, actor and entrepreneur.

Biography

Deon Opperman was born in 1962 in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape and raised in East London. He matriculated from Selborne College in 1979. After serving two years’ national service (1980 & 1981), he enrolled at Rhodes University for a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Speech and Drama (Acting) and English, with a second in Afrikaans-Nederlands

While still an undergraduate at Rhodes he wrote his first two Afrikaans plays, Môre is ‘n Lang Dag, with which he made a dramatic appearance on the theatrical scene at the very first ATKV Kampustoneel playwriting festival in Pretoria in 1983. There his ready participation in debates and his frank dismissal of the work of some established writers (e.g. Chris Barnard's rather belaboured Bloed, which had opened the weeklong festival) initially seemed to alienate many of the older members of the audience, until the Rhodes University Drama Department's performance of Opperman's superb debut work, directed, designed and performed in by the playwright, stunned them into awed silence, followed by enthusiastic acclaim. The play was next performed at the Market Theatre, in Johannesburg in 1984 and was followed by another serious Afrikaans play (Die Teken) and various other works. An articulate and passionate theatre theorist and practitioner, Opperman was soon being hailed as a genius and in many respects the spokesperson for the new generation of younger Afrikaans dramatists.

Upon graduating from Rhodes University in 1984 he was offered a position as actor and literary advisor with the then Performing Arts Council of the Orange Free State, where he worked for two years (1985-1986) before resigning in protest against the censorship of his play, A Perfect Vehicle.

In 1987 Opperman was accepted to the B.A. Honours program at the University of Cape Town, majoring in Directing for Theatre. The degree was awarded cum laude.

1989 saw Opperman move to Johannesburg, where he continued writing, directing and producing for theatre. In this time he also made his first foray into television with the adaptation of his play, Môre is 'n Lang Dag, for the SABC, on whose platform it was aired as a movie of the week.

In November 1990 Opperman was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was accepted by both the University of California: Los Angeles and Northwestern University, Chicago to their Masters Programs in Directing for Film. Opperman accepted the UCLA offer, but after a few weeks on the program there he withdrew and transferred to Northwestern University, where he completed the Masters Program in 1993.

Upon returning to South Africa in December 1993, Opperman accepted a contract with the SABC as writer and director of a number of television drama series.

Opperman terminated his contract with the SABC in 1996 to co-found AFDA (the acronym for the African Film and Drama Academy, though formally registered as the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance), where he served as Head of the Theatre Department and Director of Finance and Adminstration until the end of 2003.

While at AFDA, Opperman enrolled for a part-time Master of Business Administration degree at Wits Business School in 2002, graduating in 2006.

After leaving AFDA, Opperman devoted himself to writing, directing and producing theatre and television as an independent practioner, and continues to do so to the present day.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and performance

Among his numerous achievements and contributions in a range of fields have been:

Theatre

Playwriting

An extremely prolific writer of Afrikaans, English, bilingual and multilingual works in all genres, by 2020 Opperman had written and produced 48 original stage plays.

The original plays and musicals listed below were all produced and staged in various theatres and at arts festivals throughout South Africa, directed and/or produced by Opperman himself.

1983: Môre is 'n Lang Dag.

1984: From Midnight to Morning and Die Teken

1985: Aap in die Mou (farce) and The Perfect Vehicle (shut down by censors 5 days before premiere),

1986: Funeral March of a Marionette

1987: Gat and We All Fall Down

1988: An Indian Summer, Ah Men! (12 theatre sketches), Stille Nag

1990: Playboys,

1991: Women in the Wings

1992: Unsentimental Journey (one-man play)

1994: Sweet Sorrows (four monologues for the stage), Goya (one-man play), P.S.Send Money, and Show Me Paradise

1995: Donkerland (4 hour epic cycle)

1997: One Man's Life (one-man play) and Die Skandaal (farce, co-written with Lizz Meiring and Eric Nobbs)

1998: Die Skandaal 2 (farce: co-written with Lizz Meiring and Hannes Muller)

1999: Magspel, Sex, Lies and Leopard Crawl and Playboyz (complete rewrite of earlier play with Garth Holmes, 1999)

2000: Whore (one-woman play)

2001: Vere (musical), Got It Maid (farce) and Washing the Spears

2002: Kaalgestroop (cabaret written for Elzabe Zietsman) and Tell Me The Truth (one-man play)

2003: Nipple Caps & G-strings (one-woman play) and Boesman, My Seun

2004: Sterre in die Palm van my Hand (cabaret) and Die Wederopstanding van Japie Coetzee (one-man play)

2007: Dis Hoe Dit Was (musical, based on Steve Hofmeyr’s life) and Kaburu

2008: Ons Vir Jou (musical, co-written with Sean Else)

2009: My Sarie Marais

2010: Shaka (musical, co-written with Sean Else and Samson Khumalo) and Jock of the Bushveld (musical, based on the book, co-written with Sean Else)

2011: Binnekamer (cabaret, written for Amanda Strydom), Aantrekkingskrag and Tree Aan (musical)

2012: Lied van my Hart (musical, co-written with Sean Else, lyrics by various songwriters) and Die Skepping Oratorium (Musical. Book: Deon Opperman; music: Janine Neethling)

2019: Afrikaan (musical narrative piece, book: Deon Opperman; music: Janine Neethling)

2020: Die Negende Stap

Directing

Opperman has directed the initial productions of all of the plays, musicals and cabarets/revues he has written or co-written (see above). Additional stage productions directed, but not written by him, among them:

A School's Program for PACOFS, performed at various schools in the Orange Free State

The revue Coast to Coast (compiled by Deon Opperman, performed at UCT's Little Theatre, Cape Town)

Diary of a Madman by Nikolai Gogol (National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown)

Donderdag se Mense by Pieter Fourie (Windybrow Theatre, Johannesburg, and the State Theatre, Pretoria)

The revue It Don't Mean a Thing (compiled by Deon Opperman, performed at the National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown)

The cabaret Oorbrug (with Laurika Rauch, The Rendezvous theatre, State Theatre, Pretoria)

The revue/musical concert Samekoms/Kopano (with Laurika Rauch and Vusi Mahlasela, at the Unisa Kleinteater, Pretoria and the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees),

Equus by Peter Shaffer (at the AFDA Studio)

Requiem by Harry Hofmeyr (National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, and the Aardklop Nasionale Kunstefees, Potchefstroom, in 1998)

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (AFDA Studio)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim et al. (AFDA Studio)

Dangerous Liasons by Christopher Hampton (AFDA Studio)

Le Shebeen, a musical revue by various artists (A range of arts festivals and the AFDA Theatre)

PataPata, a musical revue by various artists (A range of arts festivals)

Hound Dog a musical revue by various artists (National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, 2004)

Droomstoel, a classical music concert with contemporary voices, by various artists. (Amphitheatre: Aardklop Kunstefees 2004)

The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein (The Opera Houses at the State Theatre, Pretoria, and the Sand du Plessis Theatre, Bloemfontein, 2005)

My Fair Lady by Lerner and Lowe (The Opera House at the State Theatre, Pretoria, 2006)

Raka, an adaptation of the dramatic poem by N.P. van Wyk Louw (Woordfees, Stellenbosch, 2016)

Producing

Opperman has produced all of the original theatre pieces he has written or co-written (see above), as well as the other large-scale musical productions. Among them have been:

Vere (KKNK Festival and Artscape Opera 2001)

The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein (The Opera Houses at the State Theatre, Pretoria, and the Sand du Plessis Theatre, Bloemfontein, 2005)

My Fair Lady by Lerner and Lowe (The Opera House at the State Theatre, Pretoria, 2006)

Soweto Story (Johannesburg Civic Nelson Mandela Theatre 2007)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim et al. (Johannesburg Civic Tesson Theatre, 2007)

Fiddler on the Roof (Johannesburg Civic Nelson Mandela Theatre 2007)

Dis Hoe Dit Was (State Theatre Opera, 2007)

The King and I (Johannesburg Civic Nelson Mandela Theatre, 2008)

OperaMania (Johannesburg Civic Nelson Mandela Theatre, 2008)

Ons Vir Jou (State Theatre Opera, 2008, 2009 and 2012, and Artscape Opera, 2013)

African Queens (State Theatre Drama, 2008)

Jock of the Bushveld (Johannesburg Civic Nelson Mandela Theatre, 2010)

Shaka Zulu (State Theatre Drama 2010)

Tree Aan (State Theatre Drama and State Theatre Opera 2011)

Lied van My Hart (State Theatre Opera, 2012)

Die Skepping Oratorium (State Theatre Opera 2013 and Artscape Opera 2013)

Afrikaan (Woordfees Festival, Stellenbosch, 2019)

Acting

Besides his appearance in his debut piece Môre is 'n Lang Dag (1983), Opperman had a number of stage roles over the years, notably in the early part of his career (1985-1988), the parts portrayed including:

1985: T.V. Revue (various roles, directed by Pierre van Pletzen), Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth ("Easy", directed by Ken Leach), Lorca's Bloedbruilof ("Leonardo", directed by Francois Swart) and Snoopy! ("Charlie Brown", directed by Billy Egan)

1986: Rene de Obaldia's Wind in die Takke van die Sassafras ("Arendsoog/Patrysoog", directed by Pierre van Pletzen), The Student Prince ("Lucas", directed by David Matheson), The Perfect Vehicle ("Jack", written by Opperman, directed by Pierre van Pletzen, and Anthony Akerman's Somewhere on the Border ("Campbell", directed by Gerrit Schoonhoven)

1987: Feydeau's The Lady from Maxim's ("Abbe", directed by Chris Weare), Gat ("The Voice", directed by Deon Opperman), We All Fall Down ("Robert Duncan", written and directed by Gerrit Schoonhoven) and An Indian Summer ("The Guest", written and directed by Deon Opperman)

1988: Ah Men! ("various men", written and directed by Deon Opperman).

1993: Cry, The Beloved Country ("The Prosecutor", Goodman Theatre, Chicago, directed by Frank Galati)

1997: Kaptein Popfees & The Weekend Blues ("Spike", play written by Garth Holmes, directed by Hannes Muller)

2003: Boesman, My Seun ("Seun", written by Opperman, directed by Hanli Rolfes)

2008: Ons Vir Jou ("Lord Methuen", written by Deon Opperman, Sean Else and Johan Vorster, directed by Opperman)

Television

Writing

Series: Backstage (Head writer, 2005–2007), Kruispad (KykNet, July-Sept 2008), Getroud Met Rugby (KykNet, 2009-2015), Hartland (KykNet, 2011), Donkerland (kykNet, 2013), Bloedbroers (kykNet, 2015), Fluiters (2016)

Teleplays: Boesman, my Seun, Playboyz and Stille Nag (all adapted from his own plays of the same name), and Bottervisse in die Jêm (adaptation of Deon Meyer's short story).

Directing

Môre is ‘n lang dag : Single Cam "Movie of the Week": Assistant Director to Koos Roets.

Jackpot :26 episode multiple/single camera studio/location production

Kgatelopele: 26 episode multiple camera drama series

Cuttglas in Concert: SABC 2, one hour TV special

Le Shebeen: SABC 2, one hour TV special

Producing

Backstage (Daily drama – eTV – two years – June ’05 – June 07)

Kruispad (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired July-Sept ’08)

Getroud Met Rugby Season 1, 2 & 3 (13 x 1 hour TV drama series, kykNET) Season 1 & 2 aired July - November 2009 Season 3: aired July – Sept 2010

Hartland (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired July – Sept 2011)

Getroud Met Rugby Season 4: aired July – Sept 2012

Donkerland (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired 2014)

Getroud Met Rugby Season 5 (aired July – August 2015)

Bloedbroers (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired September – December 2015)

Fluiters (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired March – May 2016)

Getroud Met Rugby – Die Sepie (Daily drama, from April 2016 – to present)

Hartstog (90 minute teleplay – kykNet, aired December 2017)

13 Films (13 x 90 minute movies of the week, kykNet, aired Jan-March 2019)

Film

Screenwriting

Getroud Met Rugby (feature film, produced and directed by Cobus Rossouw)

Platteland (feature film, co-written with Sean Else, produced by Collective Dream)

Projects in management, education and archival services

He is the founder of inter alia, the (AFDA, a training institution for scriptwriters and playwrights, focussing on commercial work rather than literary work), the Afrikaanse Kontemporêre Drama Argief ("Afrikaans contemporary drama archive", ) or AKDA.

Is also the CEO of Deon Opperman Productions (Pty) Ltd and the director and head writer for Overberg Productions (Pty) Ltd.


Awards and recognition

He is the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including:

Vita Award for South African Playwright of the Year, 1985

Vita Award for Most Promising New Actor of the Year, 1985

Vita Award for Best Production of a Play in the Orange Free State, 1986

South African Academy of Science & Art Eugene Marais Award for Literature, 1987

Fleur du Cap Award for Best New South African Play, 1990

Vita Award for Best Director in Natal, 1990

Vita Award for Best Production in Natal, 1990

Vita Award for Best Production of a New South African Play, 1990

E.P.Herald Showtime Award for Best Director, 1990

Vita Award for Best Director in the Orange Free State, 1991

Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year: 1992

SACPAC Playwright of the Year Regional Award, 1992

Regional Vita Award:Best Production (Gauteng) 1996

Kanna Award for Innovation and Contribution to Afrikaans Theatre – 2001

South African Academy of Science & Art Hertzog Prize for Drama – 2006

ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Script (Kruispad) – 2009

ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Producer (Kruispad)- 2009

South African Academy of Science & Art Hertzog Prize for Drama – 2009

FAK Prestige Prize - 2009

ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Script (Donkerland) – 2014

ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Producer (Donkerland)- 2014

Inniebos Arts Festival Lifetime Achievement Award - 2015

Sources

From Midnight to Morning programme notes, 1984.

Tucker, 1997.

http://www.argief.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&cause_id=1270&news_id=70729

CV of Deon Opperman (2021, courtesy of Deon Opperman)

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