Natal Performing Arts Council

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The Natal Performing Arts Council (Afrikaans: Natalse Raad vir die Uitvoerende Kunste) was one of the four state-funded performing arts councils instituted in 1963 to replace the old National Theatre Organization (NTO).

Best known by its acronym: NAPAC (NARUK in Afrikaans).


In 1961, the National Theatre Organisation was disbanded and replaced by four provincial performing arts councils. In Natal, the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC) was instituted in 1963 with the aim to promote the performing arts in Natal and South Arica. The arts councils received sufficient government subsidies to fund various art forms as well as the operational requirements of the theatre facilities. Staff could be taken into permanent employment.


Founded 25th July 1963 with 4 Departments (Drama, Opera, Music, Ballet) under Chris Lombard as first Director.

Registered as a society not for gain, it was headed by a policy-making council chaired by the provincial administrator and representative of all interested parties, including the province, the city municipalities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the department of national education, the business sector as well as representatives of the various performing art forms.

Their function was to provide provide artists and artisans with a secure career option, to develop and promote drama, ballet, music and opera by offering audiences in the province with regular professional productions.


Initially based in two small offices in the NPA-building in Acutt Street, Durban, NAPAC moved in March 1964 to the Art Centre at 43 Albany Alley for three months, before obtaining more permanent housing in an old manor house, the former Berea Nursing Home, in Overport (fondly referred to as "The Crow's Nest").

Between 1963 and 1970, NAPAC had no fixed venue for their productions, but they settled into the Alhambra Theatre on 23 April 1970 after this historic building was renovated.

The Natal Playhouse

The Natal Playhouse complex opened on 12 April 1986 as NAPAC’s official home for the various departments. The complex was opened with NAPAC’s resident conductor David Tidboald conducting the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. NAPAC’s executive director Rodney Phillips supervised the construction and design of the theatre.

For more information on the theatre complex and its history, see Natal Playhouse.


From 210 performances in 1964, NAPAC grew to be the second-largest Arts Council in South Africa with, in the 1980s, 700 employees and a production programme of drama, musicals, symphony concerts, opera, ballet and school tours.

In the late 1980s, with reductions in state subsidy, particularly after the introduction of the Stumpf funding formula, pressure from political organisations (including the Natal Cultural Congress) and the Durban City Council, and after investigations by CRAN (Commission for Researching the Restructuring of the Performing Arts in Natal) and ECON (Evaluation Committee of Napac), NAPAC began a process of transformation.

Between 1993 and 1994 NAPAC restructured, with over 200 employees retrenched or dismissed, a new Board of Directors, and 3 main areas (Education, Development, Performance). In this period Mbongeni Ngema was appointed as Artistic Director for Musical Theatre and under the guidance of the Chief Executive Officer, Johan Zietsman, NAPAC was replaced on 11th February 1995 by a newly formed entity, the The Playhouse Company.



The director was Chris Lombard (from 19** to 19**) and the head of drama John Moss (from 19** to 19**).

Rodney Phillips was appointed Director in 1982. He created the NAPAC Ballet Company, launched the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, and provided much needed managerial structures.

Johan Zietsman was Chief Executive Officer of the restructured NAPAC from 1994. Under his leadership the Playhouse Company was founded in 1995 to replace NAPAC.


These included:

Other facilities


For more information on operas and musicals staged by NAPAC, see NAPAC Opera and NAPAC Musicals.

NAPAC Reference Library and NAPAC Archives

NARUK NASLAAN-Biblioteek/NARUK Argief NAPAC Reference Library/NAPAC Archives

29 Acutt Street, Durban 4001 Mail: Private Bag 5353, Durban 4000 Telephone: +27 (31) 304 3631 Telefax: +27 (31) 306 2166

Holdings on

Dramatic theatre. Operetta/Musical. Ballet/dance. Pantomime/mime. Children's theatre. Puppet theatre. Cabaret/Kabaret. Variety/music hall. Amateur theatre. Theatre architecture. Festivals. Public celebrations. Other.


Books. Periodicals. Playtexts. Photos. Promptbooks. Manuscripts. Correspondence. Programmes. Clippings. Posters. Designs/Plans. Costumes. Properties. Sets. Models. Videos/films/DVDs. Official documents. Scores/libretti/music. Masks. Paintings. Memorabilia. Sound recordings/CDs. Production material. Other.


SACD 1973, 1974

Hilde Roos. 2012. 'Indigenisation and history: how opera in South Africa became South African opera'. Acta Academica Supplementum. 2012(1).

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