Deon Opperman (1962-) is a prolific and influential playwright, director, actor and entrepreneur.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and performance
- 3 Awards and recognition
- 4 Sources
- 5 Return to
Deon Opperman was born in 1962 in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape and raised in East London. He matriculated from Selborne College in 1979. After serving two years’ national service (1980 & 1981), he enrolled at Rhodes University for a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Speech and Drama (Acting) and English, with a second in Afrikaans-Nederlands
While still an undergraduate at Rhodes he wrote his first two Afrikaans plays, Môre is ‘n Lang Dag, with which he made a dramatic appearance on the theatrical scene at the very first ATKV Kampustoneel playwriting festival in Pretoria in 1983. There his ready participation in debates and his frank dismissal of the work of some established writers (e.g. Chris Barnard's rather belaboured Bloed, which had opened the weeklong festival) initially seemed to alienate many of the older members of the audience, until the Rhodes University Drama Department's performance of Opperman's superb debut work, directed, designed and performed in by the playwright, stunned them into awed silence, followed by enthusiastic acclaim. The play was next performed at the Market Theatre, in Johannesburg in 1984 and was followed by another serious Afrikaans play (Die Teken) and various other works. An articulate and passionate theatre theorist and practitioner, Opperman was soon being hailed as a genius and in many respects the spokesperson for the new generation of younger Afrikaans dramatists.
Upon graduating from Rhodes University in 1984 he was offered a position as actor and literary advisor with the then Performing Arts Council of the Orange Free State, where he worked for two years (1985-1986) before resigning in protest against the censorship of his play, A Perfect Vehicle.
In 1987 Opperman was accepted to the B.A. Honours program at the University of Cape Town, majoring in Directing for Theatre. The degree was awarded cum laude.
1989 saw Opperman move to Johannesburg, where he continued writing, directing and producing for theatre. In this time he also made his first foray into television with the adaptation of his play, Môre is 'n Lang Dag, for the SABC, on whose platform it was aired as a movie of the week.
In November 1990 Opperman was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was accepted by both the University of California: Los Angeles and Northwestern University, Chicago to their Masters Programs in Directing for Film. Opperman accepted the UCLA offer, but after a few weeks on the program there he withdrew and transferred to Northwestern University, where he completed the Masters Program in 1993.
Upon returning to South Africa in December 1993, Opperman accepted a contract with the SABC as writer and director of a number of television drama series.
Opperman terminated his contract with the SABC in 1996 to co-found AFDA (the acronym for the African Film and Drama Academy, though formally registered as the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance), where he served as Head of the Theatre Department and Director of Finance and Adminstration until the end of 2003.
While at AFDA, Opperman enrolled for a part-time Master of Business Administration degree at Wits Business School in 2002, graduating in 2006.
After leaving AFDA, Opperman devoted himself to writing, directing and producing theatre and television as an independent practioner, and continues to do so to the present day.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and performance
Among his numerous achievements and contributions in a range of fields have been:
An extremely prolific writer of Afrikaans, English, bilingual and multilingual works in all genres, by 2020 Opperman had written and produced 48 original stage plays.
The original plays and musicals listed below were all produced and staged in various theatres and at arts festivals throughout South Africa, directed and/or produced by Opperman himself.
1983: Môre is 'n Lang Dag.
1991: Women in the Wings
1992: Unsentimental Journey (one-man play)
1995: Donkerland (4 hour epic cycle)
2000: Whore (one-woman play)
2009: My Sarie Marais
2020: Die Negende Stap
Opperman has directed the initial productions of all of the plays, musicals and cabarets/revues he has written or co-written (see above). Additional stage productions directed, but not written by him, among them:
PataPata, a musical revue by various artists (A range of arts festivals)
Opperman has produced all of the original theatre pieces he has written or co-written (see above), as well as the other large-scale musical productions. Among them have been:
Besides his appearance in his debut piece Môre is 'n Lang Dag (1983), Opperman had a number of stage roles over the years, notably in the early part of his career (1985-1988), the parts portrayed including:
1985: T.V. Revue (various roles, directed by Pierre van Pletzen), Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth ("Easy", directed by Ken Leach), Lorca's Bloedbruilof ("Leonardo", directed by Francois Swart) and Snoopy! ("Charlie Brown", directed by Billy Egan)
1986: Rene de Obaldia's Wind in die Takke van die Sassafras ("Arendsoog/Patrysoog", directed by Pierre van Pletzen), The Student Prince ("Lucas", directed by David Matheson), The Perfect Vehicle ("Jack", written by Opperman, directed by Pierre van Pletzen, and Anthony Akerman's Somewhere on the Border ("Campbell", directed by Gerrit Schoonhoven)
1987: Feydeau's The Lady from Maxim's ("Abbe", directed by Chris Weare), Gat ("The Voice", directed by Deon Opperman), We All Fall Down ("Robert Duncan", written and directed by Gerrit Schoonhoven) and An Indian Summer ("The Guest", written and directed by Deon Opperman)
1993: Cry, The Beloved Country ("The Prosecutor", Goodman Theatre, Chicago, directed by Frank Galati)
Series: Backstage (Head writer, 2005–2007), Kruispad (KykNet, July-Sept 2008), Getroud Met Rugby (KykNet, 2009-2015), Hartland (KykNet, 2011), Donkerland (kykNet, 2013), Bloedbroers (kykNet, 2015), Fluiters (2016)
Môre is ‘n lang dag : Single Cam "Movie of the Week": Assistant Director to Koos Roets.
Jackpot :26 episode multiple/single camera studio/location production
Kgatelopele: 26 episode multiple camera drama series
Cuttglas in Concert: SABC 2, one hour TV special
Le Shebeen: SABC 2, one hour TV special
Backstage (Daily drama – eTV – two years – June ’05 – June 07)
Kruispad (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired July-Sept ’08)
Getroud Met Rugby Season 1, 2 & 3 (13 x 1 hour TV drama series, kykNET) Season 1 & 2 aired July - November 2009 Season 3: aired July – Sept 2010
Hartland (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired July – Sept 2011)
Getroud Met Rugby Season 4: aired July – Sept 2012
Donkerland (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired 2014)
Getroud Met Rugby Season 5 (aired July – August 2015)
Bloedbroers (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired September – December 2015)
Fluiters (13 x 1 hour drama series, kykNet, aired March – May 2016)
Getroud Met Rugby – Die Sepie (Daily drama, from April 2016 – to present)
Hartstog (90 minute teleplay – kykNet, aired December 2017)
13 Films (13 x 90 minute movies of the week, kykNet, aired Jan-March 2019)
Projects in management, education and archival services
He is the founder of inter alia, the (AFDA, a training institution for scriptwriters and playwrights, focussing on commercial work rather than literary work), the Afrikaanse Kontemporêre Drama Argief ("Afrikaans contemporary drama archive", ) or AKDA.
Awards and recognition
He is the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including:
Vita Award for South African Playwright of the Year, 1985
Vita Award for Most Promising New Actor of the Year, 1985
Vita Award for Best Production of a Play in the Orange Free State, 1986
South African Academy of Science & Art Eugene Marais Award for Literature, 1987
Fleur du Cap Award for Best New South African Play, 1990
Vita Award for Best Director in Natal, 1990
Vita Award for Best Production in Natal, 1990
Vita Award for Best Production of a New South African Play, 1990
E.P.Herald Showtime Award for Best Director, 1990
Vita Award for Best Director in the Orange Free State, 1991
Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year: 1992
SACPAC Playwright of the Year Regional Award, 1992
Regional Vita Award:Best Production (Gauteng) 1996
Kanna Award for Innovation and Contribution to Afrikaans Theatre – 2001
South African Academy of Science & Art Hertzog Prize for Drama – 2006
ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Script (Kruispad) – 2009
ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Producer (Kruispad)- 2009
South African Academy of Science & Art Hertzog Prize for Drama – 2009
FAK Prestige Prize - 2009
ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Script (Donkerland) – 2014
ATKV Media Award for Best Television Drama Series: Producer (Donkerland)- 2014
Inniebos Arts Festival Lifetime Achievement Award - 2015
From Midnight to Morning programme notes, 1984.
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