Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre and Performance
General Editor: Temple Hauptfleisch
The Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre and Performance (ESAT) is an open access, internet based interactive resource for theatre and performance researchers interested in the evolution, history and forms of drama, theatre and performance in South Africa. Deriving from the University of Stellenbosch's Libopedia, it uses the Wiki format and programmes and is published on the web with the assistance of the University of Stellenbosch, Department of Drama (and its former Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies), the J.S. Gericke Library and the division for Information Technology at the University of Stellenbosch
The aims of the ESAT encyclopaedia are to create a comprehensive database on the history and nature of South African theatre and make it available as a general reference work and resource for the use of researchers, students, artists, journalist and all other interested parties. This first version of the encyclopaedia was originally intended to be a published mini-encyclopaedia and reference work called A Companion to South African Theatre and Performance (COMSAT) and is derived from a database collated by Temple Hauptfleisch and the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies (CENTAPS)at Stellenbosch (with the help of a large number of associates and assistants) over the course of twenty years (1990-2010) (For more on this see Background, origins and history, Contributors and Acknowledgements).
The encylopaedia's editors invite the academic and artistic community to help in expanding and improving on this material in order to make which would make the results of academic and other research more readily accessible to the general reader and the theatre enthusiast. (For more on this see Updating ESAT.) In this sense the basic aim is rather to condense and collate available information on all South African theatre and performance forms (as far as they have been documented) in one place and in a handy and accessible digital format, rather than to undertake any comprehensive new research. Happily a great deal of little known and/or forgotten information has in fact come to the fore during the course of this project, and can be made available, though that was not the fundamental aim of this first version of ESAT.
Background and origins
The idea of compiling a comprehensive resource on South African theatre and performance was originally conceived by Temple Hauptfleisch while he was head of CESAT. However, the time was not ripe and he finally initiated the project - now called A Companion to South African Theatre and Performance (COMSAT) after he moved to the University of Stellenbosch in 1988. In 1994 he founded the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies and COMSAT became the first research programme of the new centre. The aim was to involve a range of researchers and students to compile a general reference work on South African theatre and performance which would make the results of academic and other research more readily accessible to the general reader and the theatre enthusiast.
A Companion to South African Theatre and Performance (COMSAT) - 1994-2010
Involving researchers across the country as well as post-graduate students at the University of Stellenbosch, the project expanded almost exponentially between 1994 to 2010 , generating over 10 000 individual entries and a number of sub-sections, including an overview of theatre and performance in the country, a chronology of theatre events (in the context of social, cultuiral and political events), a comprehensive bibliography and annotated lists of plays and performances.
This database of more than 2000 pages soon became a core resource for the research undertaken by the staff of the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies as well as the staff and students of the Drama Department. Gradually international enquiries also begtan to come in to the Centre.
In view of this interest the pressure to "publish" the material began to grow. However, it slowly became clear that that (a) few publishers were really interested in a publication of this enormous size and (b) as the material still kept on increasing , much editing still needed to be done, and there was an enormous amount of information still lacking. Thus the research team began to explore other possibilities. The most promising seemed to be an online version of the database, something along the lines of the Wikipedia.
An Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre and Performance (ESAT) 2010-
So, in early 2010 Temple Hauptfleisch met with Ralph Pina, Director of e-Business at the University of Stellenbosch, to discuss possibilities. Pina saw this as a project that could become far more widely applicable, so he referred Hauptfleisch to Ms Ina Smith (in charge of the Open Acess initiatives at the University) , who had also been toying with the idea for an open access site for research output for some time. In May 2010 a meeting was held with her and Mr Hilton Gibson IT specialist for the library, and the ball was set rolling to create a Libopedia wiki for research materials for the University, with the theatre data from the old COMSAT research project as the first phase. After an experimental period however, it was clear that ESAT was something different, and a separate wiki was created for the Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre and Performance (ESAT), utilising the Wiki-programme that the University had acquired. The various templates were now developed, the staff were trained and transferral of the data to the ESAT file began in July 2010, with the aid of a number of students and staff. The first version of the ESAT website was launched and opened for public use in March 2011.
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