Stellenbosch University Drama Department

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This was the third Unversity Drama Department to be founded in the country and is the oldest of the three original Afrikaans-language university-based drama training institutions. It has thus played a significant role in the development of the theatre industry in the country.

The name

("University of Stellenbosch Drama Department") Originally called the Universiteit van Stellenbosch Departement Drama ("University of Stellenbosch Department of Drama") , but since 2008 the University is formally known as Stellenbosch Universiteit or Stellenbosch University, hence the name of the department is now Stellenbosch Universiteit Drama Departement (Stellenbosch University Drama Department).


The Department traces its origins to the informal elocution lessons offered on campus from 1903, which in turn led to the speech classes presented formally by the Music Conservatoire from 1921. In 1949 Speech, Recitation and Stagecraft was recognised as a fully fledged B.A. subject and the young Robert Mohr did remarkable work in this field. In 1961 the University appointed the well-known Flemish director and lecturer, Fred Engelen, as the first professor in drama and head of an independent Drama Department in South Africa. Under his guidance the H.B. Thom Theatre was opened in 1966 as a theatre for Stellenbosch and as a training centre, and a number of Flemish and Dutch staff members were appointed, including his wife, the famous actress Tine Balder, Dr Benoni de Haeck and Mr Jos Willemse. He also appointed a young Emile Aucamp as the theatre technician and Elaine Aucamp as costumier.

After Prof. Engelen's unexpected death in 1967 the Department was run for while by Mr Jocelyn de Bruyn, along with Prof. G.P.J. Trümpelmann from German, before Prof. Fred le Roux took over as head in 1969. After his retirement in 1977 Mr Herman Pretorius was appointed to the position. During this period of exceptional activity inspired by people such as Mr Pretorius, Dr Ben de Haeck, Mrs Pat Harvey, Johann van Heerden, Chris Goetsch, Noel Roos, Marie Kruger, Emile Aucamp, Elaine Aucamp, the Department grew strongly in terms of stature, student numbers and courses offered. Under Mr Pretorius's leadership a specifically research-orientated programme was introduced. He left the University in 1994 after 16 years as head of the Department.

At this stage the University departed from its practice of appointing permanent heads of departments in favour of a system of departmental chairpersons. After serving as acting chair for a period, Dr Temple Hauptfleisch was promoted to full professor and elected by the staff as the first Chair of the Department of Drama for the period 1996-2005. In 2006 he stepped down and Dr. Marie Kruger was elected as Chair of the Department.

During the period 1995-2000 the Department (like the rest of the University) had to make a series of adjustments to the new conditions prevailing in the country and the academic sphere, during which time staff numbers were reduced and the old degree courses were converted to more focused training programmes, and there was considerable pressure to provide career-orientated training. During this phase the postgraduate component was expanded considerably, and technical and management training made more rigorous and focused.

Gradually, after, 2000, the department could grow again and by 2010 the staff and student numbers had doubled, with the post-graduate component gowing in particular.

This gradually developed to formal course in speech under *** in 193*?, with formal plays being put on as part of the training programme. In 19** this evolved into a B.A subject*? Taught by Miss **** and Mr Robert Mohr, with mr Mohr’s fine productions being particularly memorable. It was in fact he who introduced the foirst BA degree with Drama as a subject. In 196*, when Mr Mohr left Stellenbosch for the University of Cape Town, the University appointed the Belgian director and teacher Fred Engelen as first chair of the new Department of Drama. Prof Engelen brought in a number of specialists including his wife, the actress Tine Balder, theatre manager Jos Willemse and director and actor/director Benoni de Haeck.  Having originally been housed in the Hollandse Saal (“Dutch Hall”) of the old Chemistry Department, used as the Proefteater, the Department in 1966 acquired the H.B. Thom Theatre complex, with Emile Aucamp as first technician. In 1966* after Prof Engelen’s unexpected death, the Department was briefly run by Prof **Trümpelmann * of the German Department, before Prof Fred le Roux was appointed head and director of the theatre in 196*. He retired in 1979*?, to be replaced by Herman Pretorius, under whose rule the Afrikaans “kabaret” was developed and honed with the help of Hennie Aucamp, educational theatre gained a strong foothold and the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies was founded by Temple Hauptfleisch. In 1995 Pretorius resigned and was replaced by Hauptfleisch. The Department now began to develop a strong post-graduate and research profile, with the South African Theatre Journal being published there and post-graduate student numbers growing rapidly. 

In 2006 Marie Kruger was elected as Chair, while Temple Hauptfleisch became the full-time director of the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies.

The staff

The permanent the staff over the years have featured Jo Gevers, Gisela Taeger, Rina Botha, ****, Johann van Heerden, Noel Roos, Christopher Goetsch, Juanita Swanepoel, Marie Kruger, Temple Hauptfleisch, Johan Esterhuizen, Ilona Frege, Kobus Roussouw, Kole Omotoso, Samantha Pienaar, Elrina Marais, Albert Snyman, Abduragman Adams, Mareli Pretorius, Zoettje Hofmeyr, Petrus du Preez, Marthinus Basson, Antoinette Kellerman, Samantha Pienaar, Edwin Hees, *. In addition, the department has always also made use of prominent figures from the industry as lecturers and guest directors.


Over the years hundreds of talented and famous people passed through the Department as students and lecturers. They have made all kinds of important contributions towards the development of a dynamic South African theatre and media industry at the artistic as well as administrative and technical levels. Among the well-known names that have made an impact over the years are Limpie Basson, Esther van Ryswyk, Wilma Stockenström, Pieter Fourie, Johann van Heerden, Herman Binge, GiGi Fourie, Woutrine Theron, Laurika Rauch, Roberta Durrant, Johan Esterhuizen, Antoinette Kellermann, , Dawid Minnaar, Elsabe Daneel, Emile Aucamp, Franz Marx, Mees Xsteen, Annelize van der Ryst, Eben Cruywagen, Sybil Coetzee, Hélène Truter, Duncan Johnson, Ilse Roos, June van Merch, Peter Holden, Isadora Verwey, Antoinette Pienaar, Albert Maritz, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, Paul du Toit, Chris Vorster, Kobus Roussouw, Mark Graham, Christa Myburgh, Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck, Gaerin Hauptfleisch, Jaco Bouwer, Francois Toerien, Anton Luitingh, Jenny Stead,Elana Afrika, Stian Bam, Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots, Neels van Jaarsveld, and many others.

Among the post-graduate academic alumni are puppetry and voice specialist Marie Kruger, radio specialist Eben Cruywagen, film specialists Keith Bain, Julia Cain , and André Crous, theatre for development specialist Christopher Odhiambo Joseph and the critics and historians Yvette Hutchison, Johann van Heerden and Petrus du Preez.

The curriculum over the years


Origins of speech and drama training in Stellenbosch


Faculty and Staff


Courses and programmes

Related Projects and programmes

ESAT: The Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre and Performance

SATJ: South African Theatre Journal

Boland Moorde


Hollandse Saal

The Hollandse Saal (“Dutch Hall”), former home of the Chemistry Department, became the first home for the Stellenbosch University Drama Department. It had a hall used for performances. The site was used to build the H.B. Thom Theatre in 1966.

H.B. Thom Theatre

Drama Department offices

Adam Small Theatre Complex


Departmental website at

PICS: Stellenbosch University to name theatre complex after Adam Small, IOL News, 29 August 2018[1]

Programme for the inauguration ceremony of the Adam Small Theatre Complex, 23 November 2018.

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Awards made by the Department

André Huguenet Toekenning (Award)

Made to the best male student performance in a leading role, by University of Stellenbosch Department of Drama. Donated by Hannes Horne in 199*, the floating trophy is the actual sword used by André Huguenet in his 1957 production of Macbeth.

Anna Neethling Pohl Toekenning (Award)

Made to the best female student performance in a leading role, by University of Stellenbosch Department of Drama. Donated by Hannes Horne in 199*, the floating trophy consists of a framed headband, one of the many distinctive headbands traditionally worn by the grand dame of Afrikaans theatre, Anna Neethling Pohl. *** (Because of the fact that they were made of plaited material, they were affectionately referred to as her "koeksusters" [a typical South African sweet cake] by her students).

Mark Graham Toekenning (Award)


For more information

See the Departmental website at

See also

HB Thom Theatre

Adam Small Theatre Complex

Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies

South African Theatre Journal

Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre, Media and Performance (ESAT)

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