Marie van Heerden

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Marie van Heerden (1924-1989) was a South African actress , highly respected stage director and founder member of the Libertas Teaterklub in Stellenbosch.

Also referred to as Marie Viljoen in some early sources, but usually referred to by her married name for much of her career.


Born Maria Magdalena Viljoen, she matriculated at Jan Van Riebeeck High School in Cape Town in 1939, then did a three-year course in Elocution and Drama under Sr Hyacinth Skene, Leonie Pienaar and Aletta Gericke in Cape Town and, after completing the final practical examinations, received her A.T.C.L. (Associate Trinity College London) in 1942.

Both her sons, Johann van Heerden and Marcel van Heerden, also became well-known professional performers and theatre practitioners.

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

Between 1940 and 1948 she appeared in fourteen professional productions (taking ten leading roles) in the theatre companies of André Huguenet, Wena Naudé and André Rousseau. While still studying, as an eighteen-year old in 1942, she started acting in amateur productions of the KAT in Cape Town, appearing in plays like Die Hoogste Reg and Die Spaanse Vlieg, while also acting in radio-dramas for the SABC.

In 1947 she joined the André Rousseau Theatre Company as a full-time professional actress in the touring production of Liefde in Satyn, followed by Eerloos.

After her marriage in 1947 she moved back to Cape Town and in 1952 to Stellenbosch, after the birth of her two sons. In 1960 she joined the Libertas Teaterklub as an actress and director. For them she starred in Onderdrukte Begeertes, one of the one-act plays in the amateur society's first production. She directed many plays for the Libertas Teaterklub, including André P. Brink's Die Tas (1965), Emlyn Williams's Night Must Fall (1965), William Saroyan's [1] The Hungerers (1966), Terence Rattigan's [2] Die Ander Vuur (1968), Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers (1969), Hennie Aucamp: Kortverhale en Eenakters (1970), Leslie Sands's Something to Hide (1970).

In 1964 she performed opposite Louis Eksteen in André P. Brink's Die Koffer staged by the Libertas Teaterklub at the ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie in Bloemfontein.

While acting in, or directing, many Libertas Teaterklub productions, first in The Cellar in Dorp Street and later in the Libertas Theatre in Bird Street, she also acted in a number of productions for the Universiteitsteater Stellenbosch (i.e. the Drama Department's company), including pieces such as Die Lewe wat ek jou Gegee het (1964), Antigone (1965) and Die Erfgename (1967).

For two years (1972/3) she joined CAPAB as professional actress, taking parts in productions like Bart Nel by Jan van Melle. As a representative of CAPAB she also directed some amateur productions like Lokval vir ‘n Eensame Man by Robert Thomas for the Kimberley Amateur Dramatic Society (KADRA) and Something to Hide by Leslie Sands for the Dramatic Society of East London.

In 1974 she moved back to Stellenbosch and started directing productions for the Libertas Theatre Club again. Among them were Hennie Aucamp's Wolf, Wolf hoe laat is dit? in Vlugsout, an evening of Aucamp's work (1974). In August 1974 she directed André P. Brink's Pavane for Stellenbosch University's USAT in the Libertas Theatre.

In 1975 she designed and implemented the idea of Kortteater/Short Theatre for the Libertas Teaterklub. In this series of five one-hour primetime productions she staged: an adapted version of The Freedom of the City by Brian Friel (March); Vrou Vrou/Woman Woman (May); Skoppensboer, an adaptation of The Ruffian on the Stair by Joe Orton (July); Items (November).

She directed Jean-Paul Sartre’s In Camera and Robert Thomas's Lokval vir ‘n Eensame Man in 1976, Hugo Claus’s 'n Bruid in die Môre in 1977 and 4 Vertrekke en 'n Tuin by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy in 1978 for the Libertas Teaterklub.

Productions (1964-1978)

1964: Die Koffer (Die Vrou), Arsenic and Old Lace (Martha), Waltz Time (Charlotte), Die Lewe wat ek jou Gegee het (Fiorina).

1965: Die Tas (director), Antigone (Noenoe), Drama and Verse (Narrator), Night Must Fall (director), The Long View (director).

1966: The Hungerers (director), Die Sterkere (director), Speelgoed van Glas (Amanda).

1967: Gas Light (Bella), Portret van 'n Madonna (director), Kwartet (director), Die Erfgename (Lavinia).

1968: Die Ander Vuur (director).

1969: Ten Little Niggers (director).

1970: Hennie Aucamp: Kortverhale en Eenakters (director), The Maids (actress, "Madame") and Something to Hide (director)

1971: Hello from Bertha (director), The Apollo de Bellac (director), Winners (director).

1972: Alle Paaie lei na Rome (Die Vrou), Johnnie Speel Kok (Haas), Bart Nel (Martha), Lokval vir ‘n Eensame Man (director), Something to Hide (director).

1974: Vlugsout (director), Pavane Director).

1975: The Freedom of the City (director), Vrou Vrou/Woman Woman (director), Skoppensboer (director), Items, (director). Also five plays for the Kortteater/Short Theatre theatre series (an adapted version of The Freedom of the City by Brian Friel in March; Vrou Vrou/Woman Woman in May; Skoppensboer, an adaptation of The Ruffian on the Stair by Joe Orton in July and Items in November).

1976: In Camera (director), Lokval vir ‘n Eensame Man (director).

1977: 'n Bruid in die Môre (director).

1978: 4 Vertrekke en 'n Tuin (director).

Awards, etc.

In 1964 she won the award as Best Actress, opposite Louis Eksteen, winner of the award as Best Actor, at the ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie in Bloemfontein at the annual ATKV Amateur Toneelkompetisie, for their performances in André P. Brink's Die Koffer staged by the Libertas Teaterklub.


Correspondence with Johann van Heerden (2012)

Marie van Heerden's personal collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and theatre programmes.

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