The main focus is on pre-21st-century theatre, film, media and performance

Jump to navigation Jump to search

This explanation is provided merely as a cautionary note to readers concerning the balance of the material currently in the encyclopaedia. In it we would like to explain something of the basic approach we have chosen to follow regarding the time-frame chosen within which we work, in view of the realities of doing an online encyclopaedia on something as changing (and often ephemeral) as the performing arts.

When we set out in the late 20th century, the theoretical focus of the project was to document the entire history and practice of South African theatre, film, media and performance - from the initial vestiges of performance thousands of years ago to today (as in "this day"). In this we would seek to include all the people, systems, activities and institutions involved in making performances. Since that history is not an inert or unchanging one, with the processes of making theatre and performance in all its many forms being a shifting and continuing process and new research on it being undertaken all the time, the task of adding such information grows exponentially larger as time goes by, and we gradually (though reluctantly) came to realize that we might have to find some cut-off point for information.

Fortunately most contemporary activities are today recorded on the internet and are thus accessible to researchers and practitioners anywhere in the world. This is not always true of the photo- and print-based documentation processes of previous centuries (to a large extent archival and library material from the 15th to 20th centuries, often including descriptions of, research on and speculation about earlier performance traditions, forms and activities). Hence, given the small staff involved, the initial aim of ESAT has inevitably been to make that written, printed and other material available online, rather than the far more accessible information on the many new people, products, productions and activities of the 21st century.

Of course this was, even in the beginning years, just a general guiding principle, and ESAT soon had many entries on post-2000 work as well. Most obviously so in cases where older plays were revived, or where classic work was being done, for example - but also in the case of some of the more significant and influential productions undertaken by groundbreaking theatre practitioners in the new millenium. (The same case could be made for film and media.) So, while the caveat regarding the focus remains and the strength of the project is always going to be the past and the work of the previous centuries, we continue to add any material that comes our way.

Return to Main Page

Go to The ESAT Entries