Anthony Akerman

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Anthony Akerman (1949-) Playwright and screenwriter.

Biography

He was born in Durban.

Married the actress Andre Hattingh in the early 2000s.

Youth

Training

Anthony was educated at Rhodes University (Drama and English, 1969-1972) and did the Director's Course at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol and postgraduate Theatre Studies at the University of Cardiff.

Career

In 1975 he moved to Amsterdam. He has worked as a director in Holland, France, Mexico, Canada and South Africa. His own plays have been performed in Holland, Germany and South Africa. He returned home permanently in 1992.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

His first play, Somewhere on the Border (1983), was banned “as a publication” in South Africa. However, it was a countrywide success when it was performed and was nominated for the DALRO Best Play Award in 1987. The Argus called it “the ultimate anti-war statement in white South African theatre.”

Dark Outsider, his play about the controversial South African poet Roy Campbell, won a string of awards, including the Vita Playwright of the Year Award for 1995/96. The E. P. Herald called it “a masterful work that has earned a niche in the sparse collection of great South African theatrical endeavours.” Old Boys, a play based on his school days at Michaelhouse, also won a Vita Best Script Award in 1997 and Business Day wrote of it: “You are unlikely to see anything as good on any other stage in the country.” His other plays include A Man out of the Country (1985), A Natural History (1994) and Comrades Arms (2000).

He adapted most of his stage plays for radio broadcast on SAfm. After a lapse of eight years, radio drama was re-launched on Human Rights Day 2006 with his new play, The Africanist, about the life of the late anti-apartheid icon Robert Sobukwe. No Place for You, his dramatisation of Ruth First’s 117 Days, was commissioned for Women’s Day the same year. Heresy & Treason, two plays about the life of Bishop Colenso, and a play called Hope Deferred were broadcast in 2006, his dramatisation of Oliver Schreiner’s Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland in 2007 and his adaptation of Mary Benson’s A Far Cry in 2008.

He was Head Writer on the e-tv sitcom Scoop Schoombie and also wrote several episodes of the sitcoms S.O.S. and Madam & Eve. He has also written soap and wrote episodes of Isidingo for two years and Scandal for one year. He was one of the writers on the recent SABC3 series Shado’s. He has been writer and script editor of the e.tv soap Rhythm City since it went on air in 2007.

In 2000, Wits University Press published Dark Outsider: Three Plays, a collection of his plays. His articles have been published widely in magazines and newspapers.

As director

While still a student at Rhodes he directed his first play, Genet's The Maids.

In 1975 the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement invited him to Amsterdam to direct Fugard's Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act. It was the first Fugard play to be performed in Dutch and during the next seventeen years, he went on to direct the Dutch-language premieres of Boesman and Lena, A Lesson from Aloes and My Children!, My Africa!.

In 1988 Anthony directed the first South African play ever to be performed in Mexico, A Lesson from Aloes translated into Spanish.

He directed The Substance of Fire for PACT in 1993.

Awards, etc

The English Academy of South Africa’s 2014 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story / Play was awarded to Akerman for Somewhere on the Border published by Wits University Press in 2012.

Sources

The Substance of Fire programme notes, 1993.

Interview with Denis Salter 2004.

Material held by NELM re his wedding to Andre Hattingh: [Collection: AKERMAN, Anthony]: 2009. 4. 5.

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