Die Vrystaatse Toneelskool

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Die Vrystaatse Toneelskool ("The Free State Theatre School") was a training institution set up in Bloemfontein by Hendrik Hanekom (1893-1952) and Mathilde Hanekom (1896-1976).

It was known by many names, depending on the particular source, including Die Toneelskool ("The theatre school"); the Bloemfontein Toneelskool or Die Bloemfonteinse Toneelskool (the "Bloemfontein theatre school"); or variously as the Toneelskool van die Hanekoms Die Toneelskool van die Hanekoms and Die Hanekoms se Toneelskool (all three all basically meaning the "Theatre school of the Hanekoms").

In 1931 Mathilde’s health had become a concern, the depression was making things financially difficult and their daughter needed to go to school, so the Hanekoms had decided to stop touring. Urged on and aided by the editor of Die Volksblad (Dr A.J. R. van Rijn), and supported by an advisory board consisting of among others D.F. Malherbe, A. Havenga, I. Vermooten and Gert van Rooyen, they settled in Bloemfontein and set up a drama school.

It was basically run as a theatrical society, with voice and actor training included.

The school put on 15 plays between 1932 and 1934, utilizing their students as well as a number of local amateurs, many of whom went on to become important figures in amateur and professional theatre. Among the more prominent alumni were Kitty Maasdorp, Fred van Rooyen and J.J. van Rensburg.

The first production by the school was Die Familiesaak ("the family case") by C.J. Langenhoven. According to Anna Minnaar-Vos the rest of the repertoire encompassed the following plays:

Die Seeman, Moederliefde, Huistoe, As Mans Huishou, Peggy-my-kind, Haar Man se Geheim, Die Swerwer, Die Doodvonnis, Die Wêreld Draai, Die Geleende Bruid, Amrach die Tollenaar, Oom Paul and Nie my Kind nie.

The greatest success achieved by the school was also to become one of the great success stories of the Afrikaans theatre: Hanekom's portrayal of President Paul Kruger in D.C. Postma's historical and symbolic drama Oom Paul ("Uncle Paul") was a huge hit. In 1935-6 Hanekom went on to tour the play with Die Hanekoms se Geselskap, a professional company, playing Oom Paul to a wider audience, repeating it in 1941.


Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge. 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 143, 150, 174-6, 195.

Anna Minnaar-Vos 1969. Die Spel Gaan Voort: Die Verhaal van Hendrik en Mathilde Hanekom. Kaapstad: Tafelberg, pp. 96-110.

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