Ian Steadman

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Ian Steadman (1951-) is an actor, director, playwright, researcher and academic.

Also found as Ian P. Steadman.


Ian Patrick Steadman was born in Durban in 1951, the son of Joyce and Robert ("Bob") Steadman, a highly regarded Detective in the CID (Criminal Investigations Department). Ian went to Fynnlands Junior School and New Forest High School, and in 1969 enrolled at Natal University, Durban. He graduated in 1972 with a BA Degree in History and Drama and in 1972 he completed an honours degree in Speech and Drama.

After a stint as actor and director for the Natal Theatre Workshop Company and the English Drama Company at PACT (Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal), he won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at The State University of New York in Binghamton (now "Binghamton University"), completing a Masters Degree in Theatre Studies. In 1977 he accepted the offer of appointment as a lecturer in the University of the Witwatersrand's School of Dramatic Art (SODA). In 1985 he completed a a PhD thesis called Drama and Social Consciousness: Themes in Black Theatre on the Witwatersrand until 1984.

In 1986 he was appointed as Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Chair of the Governing Committee of SODA. In 1989 he became Head of SODA, a position he held until he was appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Arts in 1993. He retained his professorial appointment throughout his subsequent administrative appointments in the University of the Witwatersrand (including five years as Director of the University of the Witwatersrand Foundation 1998-2002), until he resigned from the university to accept an appointment to The Open University in the United Kingdom as Director of Development and Director of the Open University Foundation, relocating to the United Kingdom.

He is now retired and lives in Oxford, where he has become involved in charitable work.

He is married to the employment, commercial and workplace mediator, Felicity Steadman[1] and the couple have two sons.

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

As an actor

He acted and directed for the Natal Theatre Workshop Company for three years before being appointed to the English Drama Company at PACT (Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal), where he performed in productions of Falstaff (Shakespeare/Ferguson), A Flea in her Ear and Desire Caught by the Tail before winning a Fulbright Scholarship to the USA. While studying at The State University of New York in Binghamton, he acted the role of "Andrew Wyke" in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth at The Cider Mill Theatre in Johnson City, N.Y.

After his appointment as lecturer , he would continue performing as a professional free-lance actor, inter alia for PACT, the Market Theatre and Pieter Toerien Productions, alongside teaching and researching a PhD thesis at SODA.

PACT productions included The Royal Hunt of the Sun, My Fair Lady (1990), Savages, The Director of the Opera, For the Market Theatre he did Sly Fox, Romeo and Juliet and Neighbours and for Pieter Toerien Productions he appeared in Sarcophagus (1988) and Pyjama Tops.

His film and TV work included roles in films such as Survival Zone, Game for Vultures, Prisoners of the Lost Universe, Jane and the Lost City, etc.. He appeared in a few productions for SABC Television as well, including the role of "John the Baptist" in Bill Faure’s 1978 TV version of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, opposite Jana Cilliers, and a filmed version of Macbeth.

As director

He directed The Comedy of Errors as the newly opened Wits University Theatre’s first production in 1983.

Apart from directing many student productions, Steadman also directed a number of plays for the Market Theatre - e.g. The Bald Prima-Donna (1979) and Genocide (1982). In 1983 he directed Maishe Maponya's The Hungry Earth, in preparation for its international tour, during which it was performed at the National Theatre, London, and toured Britain and Germany.

As playwright

Wrote and directed the play Genocide, staged in the Market Theatre Upstairs.

As teacher, academic and researcher

An immensely influential researcher, academic writer and supervisor of post-graduate research, whose doctoral thesis is an early and one of the most often cited, study of Black theatre in the country. Steadman was closely involved with setting up Keyan Tomaselli’s journal Critical Arts, the co-founder (with Temple Hauptfleisch) of the South African Theatre Journal (1987-), and co-author (also with Hauptfleisch) of the seminal collection South African Theatre - Four Plays and an Introduction (1984). He wrote the introduction to Doing Plays for Change (a collection of plays by Maishe Maponya published in 1995).

In more than a dozen key articles on theatre and performance in South Africa, Steadman not only added to, but significantly guided and stimulated new research in the field. He has been especially influential in uncovering the range and depth of black urban theatre in the country, and the political role of theatre in the country.

Through his research and teaching, he was also closely associated, as director, mentor and researcher, with developing the work of the performer/playwrights Matsemela Manaka and Maishe Maponya.


SACD 1977/78

Percy Tucker. 1997. Just the Ticket. My 50 Years in Show Business. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Personal correspondence from Ian Steadman, 5 February, 2019.

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