Marlene Zwiegers

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Marlene Zwiegers (1962-) is an actor, director, playwright, teacher and theatre manager.

Biography and training

Born in Uitenhage on 4 October 1962, she matriculated from the Volkskool, Graaf Reinet in 1980. Thereafter she completed a BA Communications degree at the University of the Orange Free State (1981 – 1983), with psychology as major and drama as subject. Then a Licentiate in Drama at the Babs Laker Academy of Drama Cape Town(1984-1986), a Licentiate in Voice Training and Drama (1988 – UNISA). In 2005 completed an Estate Agency Exam, before returning to university, to do a Masters degree at the University of Stellenbosch (2009-2011), doing research on the ways in which Drama can create a love for reading in children and positively affect their academic marks. In 2012 registered for a PhD in Drama at the University of the Free State, entitled A Narrative Journey with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Effect of Structured Drama Intervention on Functionality in Education (2017), in which she drew on prior international research and her own experience to look at the potential of structured drama interventions in cases of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

Married to Ferdinand van Heerden in 1985, and they had two children, Ferdi van Heerden and Maggi-Mayah van Heerden. They divorced in 2002, and she took back her maiden name.

Professional career.

After a year as Public relations officer for Santam Bank, she spent 3 years as cultural officer with the Department of Arts and Culture (Cape Town 1984-1986), before becoming a freelance actress, working for CAPAB (1986) and PACOFS (1987 – 1990). While in Bloemfontein she wrote for the Volksblad newspaper on a freelance basis (1987 to 1993) and founded and ran the Kimberley Drama Academy (also 1987 to 1993).

In 1998 began work for the Department of Arts and Culture (Kimberley); training residents of local townships to act (1998-2000), and in 2000 founded her own theatre company in Kimberley, called Gruispad Theatre ("gravel road theatre") where she teaches drama , practising the principles of Theatre4Life, utilizing art, performance and drama interventions as supporting tools. In 2002 she became a member of the Premier's Committee for Crime Prevention, doing research, writing, training artists, directing and touring with plays about alcohol abuse (2002 to 2012).

In 2008 she became an Afrikaans Teacher (for Grade 8 to 11) at Kimberley Girls’ High (2008-2016) and a part-time radio presenter for Radio Teemaneng, with her own programme "Alles en nog wat" (2008 to 2010). In 2017 she became the Head of the newly established Pupil Support Department at CBC St Patricks high school in Kimberley.

As actress, writer and director

As actress

She began her professional acting career with CAPAB in 1986, playing the older "Nina" in Fiela se Kind (1986), before moving to PACOFS in 1987, where her roles included the "KWV meisie" in Die Proponentjie (1987); "Jakkie" in Nag van Legio (the female version, 1990);

As playwright/director/performer

1988: Researched, wrote and directed Ek sal betaal ("I will pay") at Kampustoneel, Pretoria.

1991–1995: Researched, wrote, directed and acted in three projects undertaken for the South African Defence Force: Danie Theron; Magersfontein and Women in Concentration Camps (in Kimberley)

PRODUCTIONS AND ARTS FESTIVALS 2006 – to present Current: The Sacred Garden: The love story of God and you….through the lives of Esther, Ruth and the Shulamite woman. (A one-woman show – director, actress, researcher and writer- self) Performed at : • East London – Guild Theatre • Kimberley, Bakenskop Church, • Royldene AGS Church, • Gruispad Theatre, • Kimberley Girls’ High • Douglas, Dutch Reformed Church • Methodist Church, Kimberley • Richmond – Groot Karoo Arts Festival Committee Uilvrou (One woman show about the life of Helen Martins) Scriptwriter, set design, planned multimedia aspect of production, actress, researcher). Toured to: Stellenbosch (Dorp Street Theatre and Aan De Braak Theatre) Strand (99 On Beach) Robertson Malmesbury Montagu Pretoria - Centurion and Pierneef Theatres Jeffreys Bay - Potters Place Nieu-Bethesda – Fugard Festival Port Elizabeth (x2) Plettenburg Bay Bloemfontein (x2) Kimberley (x10) Krugersdorp (x2) – for Medicross Hospital Staff Beaufort West – Dutch Reformed Church Cape Town ARTSCAPE – Arena Theatre Richmond – Groot Karoo Arts Festival Kleinmond - Festival 5 Ster Victory Hotel: Gariep Festival Kimberley (2006) Wrote and directed the play PROJECT 2009 Tour organiser and director, for the play SOBER CHOICES, (NUGTER KEUSES) about alcohol abuse, family violence and rape, toured throughout the Northern Cape Province. This project was executed for THE PREMIER’S COMMITTEE FOR CRIME PREVENTION AND FUNDED BY ARA (ASSOCIATION FOR RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL USE). PROJECT 2008 1. In 2008 I founded the ALMOND TREE MENTOR TRUST as part of the research for my Masters Degree in READING AND DRAMA. The main aim was to promote a love for reading among learners. The pilot project was done at two schools: Elizabeth Conradie School (for physical disabled learners) and Du Toitspan Primary, in Kimberley. Both schools have learners from poorer socio-economic groups. 2. The Mentor part of the trust consist of my drama students who spent time with learners from a poor community at Beacon Primary School in Collville. They did improvisations which underscores the value and importance of each child. 3. Drama Classes 2006 – to present Teach drama classes for scholars and adults at my studio. 4. Gruispad Theatre for Artists and singers Liaise with artists and singers country-wide to perform here. 5. Therapeutic Work Work with children with autism through the medium of drama. PRODUCTIONS 2005 1. Uilvrou – Gariep Festival 2. Genoeg is Genoeg (Enough is Enough) – wrote and directed. Socio- and psycho-drama dealing with domestic violence, suicide, rape, alcohol abuse, homelessness and murder – JACOBSDAL 3. Life of Lil Performed in play about legendary Madame Lil, of the Star of the West pub: Kimberley and Grahamstown Festival 4. Sanitation for the Nation – wrote and directed. Play about sanitation for unemployed youths in Kuruman townships for the then AFRICON. (they’re now Aurecon) PRODUCTIONS 2004 1. Tweede Kans (Second Chance) - co-writer and director Play about alcohol abuse and rape. Toured throughout the Northern Cape and performed for more than 88 000 people. 2. Genoeg is Genoeg (Enough is Enough) This play is adapted to each new group. It facilitates healing and solutions. Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu, Kroonstad PRODUCTIONS 2003 1. Fantastiese Andries Seëvier (Fantastic Andries Wins) - researcher, writer, director Script about alcohol abuse and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Toured throughout the Northern Cape, staging the show for more than 44 000 people. 2. Net….Daisy (Only….Daisy) - co-writer and actress Play about human inability to deal with loss of love and hope. Performed at Oudtshoorn Festival – KKNK PRODUCTIONS 2002 1. Neriti (researcher, writer and actor) – Gariep Festival, Kimberley Play about communication in marriage, family life and dreams. 2. Diereskedonke (children’s theatre) – writer, director and actor. KKNK Oudtshoorn PRODUCTIONS 2001 1. Net….Daisy – Gariep Festival Kimberley 2. Diereskedonke – Gariep Festival PRODUCTIONS 1998 – 2000 1. Snow White (writer, director and actress) 2. Time Warp (researcher, writer, director) 3. Dirt is nice (researcher, writer, director) 4. Tivana on a pollution adventure (researcher, writer, director) 5. To hell with Aids (writer, director and actress) 6. Life is a Travelling Song (Cabaret for matric students. English setwork)- (compiler of cabaret, writer, director and actress) 7. Wusile, the child who loved reading (writer, director, actress) 8. Do or die, pay or cry (Industrial Theatre for the payment of Municipal rates) (researcher, writer, director) 9. Vote Today (voter education in townships) - writer, director and performer. The project was funded by the Dept. of Arts and Culture. I trained unemployed people from townships and we toured throughout the Northern Cape and performed for more than 67 000 people.

Awards and achievements

In 2000 received the Culture Award for the Year from the Department of Arts and Culture , for her tours through the Northern Cape Province with various plays. In the same year awarded the Carnegie Prize (USA) for Wusile, her Puppet theatre Reading project for the Northern Cape Library.

In 2005 selected for an ATKV Afrikoon award for her play texts and their contribution to the upliftment of communities through theatre.


Correspondence with Marlene Zwiegers, 9 February 2013.

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