A simple yet well-equipped proscenium style theatre with a seating capacity of 220, superb sight lines and an orchestra pit. Named after P.P.B.Breytenbach, the first director of the National Theatre Organisation (NTO).
Original hall of the Deutsches Verein
Constructed on the basis of a community hall originally built in 1903 by the Deutsche Verein for the German speaking community.
[later?*] called die Harmoniesaal (Harmony Hall). After 1914 it was successively used as a hospital during the flu epidemic of 1918, a school, a needlework school, a sculptor's studio (used by Gerhard Moerdyk?*), a film studio and a theatre,
before being bought by NTO in 1955, during the city's centenary, with a grant of £6 000 from the city council of Pretoria. In 1957 plans for its conversion into a small experimental theatre ("kamertoneel") were drawn up by Michal Grobbelaar and Frank Graves and the actual building was carried out by them, Piet Bezuidenhout, Danie van Vuuren and the administrative staff in 1958. It was initially named the NTO Kamertoneel and used for experimental productions, particularly of new works, and by the youth group, it opened on 17 November 1958 with Voorlopige Vonnis (Von Hoeck, directed by Tone Brulin). At this point P.P.B. Breytenbach bought and donated the house next door to NTO, in the hope that they could enlarge the complex to serve as a training facility for performers and technical crew.
Die Nasionale Skouburg/ The National Theatre
Based on the success of its initial season of 12 productions in 10 months, the Central Government, the Dept of Education, Arts and Science and the City Council all donated money to upgrade the theatre and on 1 October, 1959 the work started on the project. The new theatre was to have been named the National Theatre ("Die Nasionale Skouburg" in Afrikaans) and the complex (including the proposed theatre school, workshops), the Breytenbach Centre in honour of the director. It opened in 1960 with two indigenous plays, The Fall (Delius) and Nie Vir Geleerdes (Van Wyk Louw). The dimensions of the new stage not only made large scale productions possible, but the auditorium had excellent sightlines. It soon became an immense favourite with performers and audiences alike.
PACT and the Breytenbach Theatre
In 1963 the theatre was transferred to Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT), to be used for their productions and in 1967 was renamed the Breytenbach Theatre. It became one of the best known venues in the country, with many of the most impostant new Afrikaans and English South African plays premiéring there. With the construction of a new State Theatre Pretoria in the centre of Pretoria (198*), however it lost its prime position. PACT initally used it as a rehearsal venue and a rentable space (e.g. for the various annual theatre competitions and festivals. A notable one being the ATKV Kampustoneel festival of University theatre, allowing budding playwrights a chance to see their plays on that famous stage.)
Later years: As educational theatre venue
They later let it to the Technikon Pretoria, before selling it to them in 1997, since when it has been used as a training centre by the Performing Arts departments of the Faculty of Arts (i.e. Dance, Drama, Opera and Theatre Technology) of what has become the Tswane University of Technology (TUT) Used for student productions as well as professional and amateur productions. Since the mid-1990s it has become part of the Oeverzicht Village of restored houses from Victorian Pretoria (which also housed Carel Trichardt's Die Teaterhuisie). (See both Michal Grobbelaar, 1985 and Rinie Stead, 1985b,; See also National Theatre Organisation (NTO), Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT), State Theatre Pretoria.)
[See my own sample entry - TH - plus:]
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