Libertas Teaterklub

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The Libertas Teaterklub (aka Libertas Theatre Club) is a bilingual amateur theatre club in Stellenbosch.

The club

Founded in 1960 in the old wine cellar at Libertas/Vredelust, Stellenbosch by Betty Freund, Charles Johnman, Myril Ginsburg and others. They initially performed in a converted wine cellar they named "The Cellar" or "Die Kelder". In 1967 the club moved to the intimate Libertas Theatre/Libertasteater, a converted stable on Bergzicht farm in Bird Street, made available by the Municipality (not to be confused with the Oude Libertas Theatre outside Stellenbosch).

The Libertas Theatre Club/Libertas Teaterklub later became the Klein Libertas Theatre/Klein Libertas Teater/Klein Libertas iThiyatha, a section 21 company that also has a registered production company that produces three to five professional theatre productions every year.

The Libertas Theatre/Libertasteater building in Bird Street was completely destroyed in a devastating fire, caused by an electrical short circuit, in the early hours of 13 June 2015.


The idea for an amateur theatre club in Stellenbosch originated in the late 1950's with what Ian Ferguson has called a "disastrous" amateur production of The Dark is Light Enough in the old Conservatoire of Music, directed by Charles Johnman [?*]. In spite of the failure Johnman and the cast asked Betty Freund to help them establish a proper theatre group. She negotiated with the owners of an old wine cellar in Dorp Street to house the newly formed theatre club and she supervised the conversion of the building for their meetings. Thus the Libertas Theatre Club/Libertas Teaterklub was formally founded on 5 April 1960 with Charles Johnman as first chairperson and Myril Ginsburg as secretary. The club's first production as the Libertas Theatre Club/Libertas Teaterklub was three one-act plays, Onderdrukte Begeertes, Die Vreemde Besoeker, and The Goldfish staged in the Denneoord Hall, Stellenbosch, in September 1960. Donations collected at the door that evening were used to open the first bank account for the Libertas Teaterklub.

By now Libertas Theatre Club/Libertas Teaterklub had it’s headquarters in the old wine cellar on the farm Vredelust in Dorp Street, in the heart of the village, and the venue was known as The Cellar/Die Kelder (after 1967, when the theatre club moved out, this cellar became the well-known De Kelder Restaurant).

Jean and Willa Krige, owners of the farm Vredelust, made their wine cellar available for the theatre club to use for their meetings, productions and other activities. The venue had no stage, no lighting, no curtains, no chairs and no dressing room. For the first production in their new "theatre" they built a tiny little stage with four borrowed rostrums and some chairs. The production's advertisement in the Eikestadnuus requested that the audience kindly bring their own folding chairs to the performance. There was no ceiling under the corrugated iron roof and when it rained it was quite challenging for the actors to make themselves heard. In winter the cement floor turned the venue into a large fridge. The audience had to find their way around the huge woode


The management members of the first committee in 1960 were Charles Johnman (chairman), Myril Ginsberg (secretary), Piet van Straaten and Bobby Ohlson. The other committee members were Betty Hugo, M. de Villiers, Jane Turner, Marie Malherbe, Prof W.J. du P. Erlank, Mrs P. Osler, Jim Allan and Mr Alexander.

In 1966 the committee members were: Charles Johnman (chairman), Marie Malherbe (vice-chairman), Myril Ginsburg (secretary), Jean McDonald (asst.-secretary), Piet van Straaten (treasurer), Marie van Heerden, Madeleine Heyns, Annette Muller, Mauritz van Aarde, A. Pienaar and W.A. Krige. (Eikestadnuus, 22 April 1966.)

In 1967 the committee members were: Charles Johnman (chairman), Marie Malherbe (vice-chairman), Myril Ginsburg (secretary), Jean McDonald (asst.-secretary), Peter Viljoen (treasurer), Marie van Heerden, Madeleine Heyns, Piet van Straaten, Gerhard Roux, and Fred Stephens. (Eikestadnuus, 31 March 1967.)

Between 1960 and 1976 the chairman was Charles Johnman, from 19**-19** it was **. In 198*-199* Piet Viljoen was chairman, and in 199* Jannie Hofmeyr took over.

In 1998 the club was re-structured under the chairmanship of Amelda Brand (1998-1999) and later Gaerin Hauptfleisch (2000-2009), to provide for involvement from a range of professionals, students, amateurs and community theatre groups. A formal manager was also appointed for the theatre in 1998?*. The first appointee was Francois Toerien, followed in 2000 by Maryn (**??), and in 2002 by her brother, Johan (GiGi) Fourie.


Productions 1960-1967

Libertas Teaterklub's first production, three one-act plays, was staged in the Denneoord Hall, Stellenbosch, in September 1960: Onderdrukte Begeertes, directed by Piet van Straaten, with Marie van Heerden, Fred Roux and Maxie Liebenberg; Die Vreemde Besoeker, directed by Gertie Smith-Visser, with Fred Stephens and Fred Roux; The Goldfish, directed by Jane Turner, with Mary Brooke, Jennifer Ellis, Jill Gould, Max Elstein, Johanna Friederici, Jean Krige, Klaus von Lieres, Bobby Ohlson and Cecile Elstein. The two one-act plays staged in Afrikaans were translated by Marie Malherbe.

During these first seven years the Libertas Teaterklub staged 23 productions and 13 play readings in the intimate theatre created in the Vredelust cellar (called "Die Kelder" or "The Cellar" by club members) on the farm Vredelust in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, under the patronage of the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Willa Krige, until Vredelust was sold in 1967.

The first production in The Cellar was A Lady Mislaid, a comedy in two acts by British playwright Kenneth Horne [1] directed by Charles Johnman in 1960. The next production was in Afrikaans, Moraal, directed by Jaco van der Merwe.

In March 1962 Betty Botha directed Agatha Christie's Go Back for Murder in The Cellar. Among the other memorable early productions in the first venue was Die Grootkanonne by Uys Krige in 1962.

In 1963 Libertas Teaterklub staged its first full-length children's production, Koning Lysterbaard, based on a tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm, directed by Esther van Ryswyk.

In April 1964 Libertas staged two one-act plays in The Cellar, both directed by Piet van Straaten: Hello Out There by William Saroyan, with Pieter de Swardt and Rita Sierts-Ehlers; Die Koffer by André P. Brink, with Marie van Heerden (die Vrou), Louis Eksteen (die Man), Annette Muller (die Dame), Dian Joubert (die Heer) and Casper Venter (die Klerk). This production was also staged, by invitation of the Bellville Amateur Theatre, in the Bellville Community Centre in May 1964, and in September 1964 at the ATKV Amateur Theatre Competition in Bloemfontein.

In June 1964 the theatre club presented Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring in The Cellar, directed by Esther van Ryswyk, with Jane Turner (Abby), Marie van Heerden (Martha), John Kitson (Dr Harper), Rita Sierts-Ehlers (Elaine), Fred Roux (Mortimer), Pieter de Swardt (Jonathan), Mauritz van Aarde (Dr Einstein), Piet Retief, Louis Eksteen and Piet Viljoen.

In April 1965 Libertas presented Crime on Goat Island by Ugo Betti in The Cellar, directed by Piet van Straaten, with Eugene Olén, Mauritz van Aarde, Cynthia Bam, Ida Troskie and Fred Stephens.

In June 1965 Libertas staged Die Tas by André P. Brink, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Madeleine Heyns (Kelnerin), Andries Lategan (Man 1), Casper Venter (Man 2) and Willem de la Querra (Vreemdeling), as part of the ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie in the Civic Centre in Parow and in The Cellar.

In November 1965 Libertas produced Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams in The Cellar, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Jane Turner (Mrs. Bramson), Thea Kirstein (Olivia), Annette Muller (Nurse Libby), Boela Holloway (Hubert ), Jill de Klerk (Mrs. Terence), Joan Nel (Dora), Peter Viljoen (Belsize) and Jimmy Aligianis (Dan). Music by Enrique Breytenbach (piano) and Van Zyl Hough (violin), lighting by Pieter de Swardt and decór by Johann van Heerden.

In May 1966 Libertas presented an evening of four one-act plays in The Cellar: Die Sterkere by August Strindberg, with Marie van Heerden (Miss Y) and Madeleine Heyns (Miss X); The Hungerers by William Saroyan, directed by Marie van Heerden, with John Burn Wood (The Writer), Johan Greeff (The Young Capitalist), Elodie Daneel (The Girl), Brenda von Memerty (The Old Woman) and Casper Venter (Death); Die Ander Ek by Alice Gerstenberg (translated by Marie Malherbe), directed by Piet van Straaten, with Joan Nel (Harriet), Annette Muller (Hettie), Suzette Kelly (Margaret), and Ella Steyn (Maggie); George by Van H. Cartmell, directed by Naida Brits, with Jean McDonald (Elizabeth), Rita Sierts-Ehlers (Sue), Mauritz van Aarde (Philip) and Herbert Pienaar (George). Die Sterkere represented Libertas Teaterklub at the 1966 ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie in the Civic Centre in Parow.

In April 1967 Libertas staged Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton, in The Cellar, directed by Piet van Straaten, with Marie van Heerden (Bella), Piet van Straaten (Jack), Louise Brower (Elizabeth), Cynthia Lambrechts (Nancy), Gerhard Roux (Rough), Peter Viljoen (Man 1) and Boela Holloway (Man 2). Set designed and built by Stephen Deathe, lighting designed by Pieter de Swardt and excuted by Peter Viljoen. In October this production was staged in the Bellville Civic Theatre as part of the Spring Theatre Festival hosted by B.A.T.

In June 1967 Libertas presented and evening of three one-act plays: Portret van 'n Madonna, Afrikaans translation by Marie van Heerden and Madeleine Heyns of Portrait of a Madonna (1946) by Tennessee Williams, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Madeleine Heyns (Lucretia), Fred Stephens (the doorman), Mees Xteen (the bellman), Annette Muller (the nurse), Piet van Straaten (the doctor) and Dries Smit (Mr Abrams); Bedtime Story by Sean O'Casey, directed by Jane Turner assisted by Naida Brits, with Peter Viljoen (John Jo), Jean McDonald (Angela), Herbert Pienaar (Daniel) and Brenda von Memerty (the lodging-house keeper); Kwartet by Gerhard J. Beukes, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Edward Hammond (Chris), Chris Goosen (Ren), Jannie Gagiano (Koert) and Paul van der Bijl ('n wag). Decór and lighting by Pieter de Swardt. Marie van Heerden, as director, won the award for Best Production of the year and Jannie Gagiano for Best Actor at the 1967 ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie hosted by B.A.T. at the Civic Centre in Bellville.

Libertas Teaterklub said farewell to The Cellar on 7th July 1967, after the farm Vredelust was sold.

Productions 1968-1994

After Libertas Teaterklub had to vacate The Cellar and before they could move into the new premises on Bergzicht Farm in Bird Street, they staged a production in Stellenbosch University's H.B. Thom Theatre in April 1968. It was an Afrikaans translation of Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea, called Die Ander Vuur, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Madeleine Heyns (Hester), Annette Muller (Mev. Elton), Herman Pretorius (Philip), Evonne Maritz (Ann), Van Zyl Slabbert (Mnr. Miller), Gerhard Roux (Sir William), Rocky Gagiano (Freddie Page) and Frikkie Engels (Jackie). Decór by Elaine Aucamp and Emile Aucamp, lighting by Emile Aucamp and piano played by Roucher du Toit.

Early in November 1968 the Libertas Teaterklub moved into their new premises, a converted stable on Bergzicht Farm in Bird Street, next to the open municipal market in the middle of Stellenbosch. It was called The Libertas Theatre/Die Libertasteater. The first presentation in the new theatre was an evening of extracts from The Bard's works, a one-man performance by the renowned British Shakespearean actor and director Leslie French, on Friday 22nd November 1968.

The official opening of the Libertas Theatre was on 28th February 1969 with a production by the Libertas Theatre Club of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers, directed by Marie van Heerden assisted by Louise Brower, with Albert van Tonder (Rogers), Kay Rawbone (Mrs. Rogers), Rocky Gagiano (Narracot), Jean McDonald (Vera), Paul Day (Philip), Peter Viljoen (Anthony), Fred Stephens (William), Pen Gorringe (Mrs. Clarendon), Jane Turner (Emily), Gerhard Roux (Sir Lawrence) and Brenda von Memerty (Dr Armstrong). Decór by Elaine Aucamp, lighting by Emile Aucamp, stage management and sound by Johann van Heerden and publicity photography by Rocky Gagiano and publicity artwork by Marjorie van Niekerk.

In June 1969 the Libertas Teaterklub presented My Three Angels by Albert Husson, directed by Jane Turner, with Cynthia Lambrechts (Emilie), Nigel Thompson (Felix), Louise Brower (Madame Parole), Jenny Torr (Marie-Louise), Johann van Heerden (Alfred, 4707), Bryan Andrews (Joseph, 3011), John Davis (Jules, 6917), Fred Stephens (Gaston Lemare) and Tony Gild (Espoir).

In March 1970 the Libertas Teaterklub presented Hennie Aucamp: Kortverhale en Eenakters ("Hennie Aucamp: Short Stories and One-acts"), directed by Marie van Heerden: Die Hartseerwals with Annelize van der Ryst; Die Kis with Renata Stead (Hester), Madeleine Heyns (Drieka), Elize Dreyer (Tant Lettie) and Gerhard Roux (Daiel); When the Saints Go Marching In with Annelize van der Ryst; 'n Boer sê Totsiens with Gerhard Roux; Die Terras with Renata Stead; 'n Bruidsbed vir Tant Nonnie with Johann van Heerden; Terloops with Herman Pretorius; Tussen Twee Treine with Juanita Swanepoel (Sy) and Johann van Heerden (Hy).

In July 1970 Libertas presented The Maids by Jean Genet, directed by Annelize van der Ryst, with Marianne Roux (Claire), Sharon Montgomery (Solange) and Marie van Heerden (Madame) in the Libertas Theatre. Stage management by Jan Engelen and Adri Schutte.

In September 1970 Libertas presented Something to Hide by Leslie Sands, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Paul Day (Howard), Sharon Montgomery (Julie), Jean McDonald (Karen), Gerhard Roux (Inspector Davies), Fred Stephens (Will), Cathy Evans (Stella) and Brenda von Memerty (Miss Cunningham). Decór by Jan Engelen, lighting by Emile Aucamp and sound by Johann van Heerden.

In February 1971 Libertas staged three one-act plays under the umbrella title "Lovers", directed by Marie van Heerden: Hello from Bertha by Tennessee Williams, with Brenda von Memerty (Goldie), Jean McDonald (Bertha), Annette Muller (Lena) and Laetitia Roos (Girl); The Apollo de Bellac by Jean Giraudoux, with Herbert Pienaar (The Clerk), Roberta Durrant (Agnes), Marianne Roux (Thérèse), Rocky Gagiano (Man from Bellac), Dirk Bouwmeester (VP), Douglas Rawbone (Cracheton), Fred Stephens (Lepedura), Sandro Romanini (Brambilla), Carlo Castiglione (Esposito), Jocelyn de Bruyn (The President) and Kay Rawbone (Miss Dogstooth) - music for The Apollo de Bellac composed and performed by Enrique Breytenbach; Winners by Brian Friel, with Jim Allen (Man), Myrel Ginsburg (Woman), Sharon Montgomery (Mag) and Johann van Heerden (Joe). The production of Winners was subsequently invited by CAPAB to be presented as lunch hour theatre in the Hofmeyr Theatre in Cape Town in March 1971.

In May 1974 Libertas presented a Hennie Aucamp prose evening under the titel Vlugsout, which included the première production of Aucamp's one-act play Wolf, Wolf hoe laat is dit?. The evening was directed by Marie van Heerden and the cast of Wolf, Wolf hoe laat is dit? was Joleen du Plessis (Matrone), Madeleine Heyns (Kytie), Margo Luyt (Lady), Annette Muller (Terblaans), Philip du Plessis (Kosta), Lally Viljoen (Truia), Brenda von Memerty (Die Kwartel), Maureen de Kock (Mathilda) and Leon van Nierop (Fons). These actors also presented individual prose items, together with Sharon Montgomery, Jannie Hofmeyr and the recorded voice of Hennie Aucamp presenting Selfportret ("Self Portrait"). Steadman’s Folly (1974) by Stephen Curtis won the Stephen Black Memorial prize.

In 1975 Marie van Heerden designed and implemented the idea of a Kortteater/Short Theatre series of productions for the Libertas Teaterklub, a series of five one-hour productions presented at 19h30 on Saturday evenings, leaving the audience free to spend the rest of the evening either chatting to the cast over coffee or going out. (FOR THE PRODUCTONS, SEE THE SECTON BELOW).

In September 1975 Libertas presented Dis Koud Hier by Braam van Wyk, directed by Maureen de Kock, with Esté Heydenrych, Space van Heerden, Johan Burger, Dorothea van Schalkwyk and Hans Hugo; The Lesson, starring Ben Dehaeck and Juanita Swanepoel.

In August 1976 Libertas staged Lokval vir ‘n Eensame Man by Robert Thomas, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Henry Mylne (Die Man), Anton van Niekerk (Die Kommissaris), Casper Badenhorst (Die Priester), Elsabé Grobbelaar (Die Vrou), Leon van Heerden (Die Boemelaar), Patricia Pieterse (Die Verpleegster). Décor built by Jannie Hofmeyr, Val Julius and Desmond Arendse.

In April 1977 'n Bruid in die Môre Jan Rabie's Afrikaans translation of Hugo Claus's Een Bruid in de Morgen, was staged by Libertas, directed by Marie van Heerden, with Danny Fourie (Pattini, die vader), Leona Rich (Die moeder), Juanita Swanepoel (Andrea, die dogter), Deon Bosman (Thomas, die seun) and Esther du Toit (Hilda, die niggie). Décor and lighting by Emile Aucamp.

In March 1978 Libertas presented 4 Vertrekke en 'n Tuin, an Afrikaans translation by Rita Elferink of the French play 4 pièces sur jardin by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy, directed by Marie van Heerden, featuring Herman Binge, Johan Fourie, Juanita Swanepoel, Dirk Winterbach, Sandra Temmingh and Coreen Olivier. Décor and lighting by Emile Aucamp.


The Reluctant Debutante (1978, directed by Billy Trengove - won the Cape Times prize for best amateur production; Ekskuus vir die Wals (1984), cabaret by Etienne van Heerden, directed by Johann van Heerden, starring Antoinette Pienaar, André Schwartz and Jannie Hofmeyr; 3-D (1984), cabaret by Anthony Costandius, directed by Zoettje Hofmeyr and starring Antoinette Pienaar, Ilse Roos, André Schwartz and Jannie Hofmeyr; Gifbessie (1988) cabaret by André Fox; The Gypsy Love Story (1994) written by Richard Smollen.

Productions 1995-

With the change in management structure, an increasing number of professional productions (notably from the various Arts Festivals) and student productions from the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department were now presented, although the amateur wing of the old club continues to exist, having a representative on the management committee.

Recently the Klein Libertas Theatre also registered as a production house – of which two professional productions namely, Want, Kyk die Bruidegom is Hier (a production about Hennie Aucamp’s work) and Pas de Deux by Hugo Claus, with Nicole Holm and Johann Nel, were extremely successful. Both Nicole and Johann were nominated for the Fleur du Cap-awards.

TO BE COMPLETED (post 1995...) >>>

Kortteater/Short Theatre

In 1975 Marie van Heerden designed and implemented the idea of a Kortteater/Short Theatre series of productions for the Libertas Teaterklub. It was a series of five one-hour productions presented at 19h30 on Saturday evenings, leaving the audience free to spend the rest of the evening either chatting to the cast over coffee or going out. After the first production the idea was so popular with the audience that Libertas subsequently offered each Kortteater/Short Theatre production on the Friday ánd the Saturday evening. For the first, the March, Kortteater/Short Theatre Marie van Heerden directed an adapted version of The Freedom of the City by Brian Friel, with Dirk Hartford, Fred Stephens, Heinz Pfafferott, Chris Glass, Gerhard Roux, Colin Kloot, Brenda von Memerty, Nicholas Fine, Jane Turner, Steve Curtis, Jannie Hofmeyr, and Jim Allen. In May she staged a compilation of bits from works by various prominent dramatists, called Vrou Vrou/Woman Woman, with Margot Luyt, Sue Curtis, Sharon Montgomery, Madeleine Heyns, Rina Nienaber, Marcel van Heerden and Nicholas Fine. For July she directed Skoppensboer, her own Afrikaans adaptation of The Ruffian on the Stair by Joe Orton, with Herman Binge (Nick), Sharon Montgomery (Rita) and Jannie Hofmeyr (Henk). In November she staged a "musical potpourri", they called Items, with Herman Binge, Kosie de Villiers, Leonore Ehlers, Johann Engelbrecht, Nicholas Fine, Esté Heydenrych, Jannie Hofmeyr, Rina Nienaber, Karien Scheepers, Fanie Snyman, Vernon Swart and Space van Heerden.

Community Theatre

From 1995 onwards, a community theatre workshop was also run, producing work such as Hoe issie lewe oor die Krismis (1998, facilitated by Amelda Brand with female farm workers). Out of this grew the strong community theatre activities of the club, initiated and run by Brand, taken over in 2000 by Saartjie Botha, and later by Kabous Meiring. The amateur wing of the old club continued to exist, having a representative on the management committee.


Earlier history and productions: Marie van Heerden's personal collection of photographs, newspaper clippings and theatre programmes.

Betty de Wet article in Eikestadnuus, September. 1960.

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