Founded in 1965 at Dorkay House by Ian Bernhardt of Union Artists and director Barney Simon to produce Athol Fugard’s Hello and Goodbye. They went on to sponsor black cast shows such as Soweto Ensemble’s Shaka (directed by Corney Mabaso, 1968) and Phiri (a celebrated local version of Jonson’s Volpone, adapted and directed by Barney Simon, 1972). In 197* they collaborated with Mabaso to produce the variety show Isuntu, which went on to tour Japan (as Meropa) and England (as KwaZulu). Despite the personal commitment of the white members of Phoenix Players to furthering the work of black performers, directors and producers and some excellent work produced, there was much criticism from BCM members because of the perceived preferment given to white members of the company. Phoenix Players: They were an offshoot of Union Artists. Together with CAPAB and PACT, they staged Athol Fugard’s Boesman and Lena and People are Living There, both directed by Fugard and starring Yvonne Bryceland and Glynn Day in 1970. Barney Simon directed Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona’s workshopped play, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, starring Kani and Ntshona. It was brought to Johannesburg by Ian Bernhardt for the Players and was staged at the Men’s Common Room at Wits University in November 1972. Corney Mabaso was artistic director and Percy Tucker a trustee of the Players circa 1974. They performed in the black musical Meropa, previously called Isintu, which toured to Japan and the Far East. Brickhill-Burke reworked this play and reopened His Majesty's Theatre with it on the 3 December 1974. **** (Tucker, 1997; Kruger, 1999) [TH]
In the PACT/CAPAB's, in association with Phoenix Players, productions of People are Living There and Boesman and Lena programme notes in 19**: 'Phoenix Players is the performing arts arm of Union Artists - the organisation that caters for the cultural interests of Non-Europeans in Transvaal. Both organisations are housed in Dorkay House, the ramshackle building at the bottom end of Eloff Street where you are likely to encounter a pop band in rehearsal as the superb Ionian Male Choir or a children's percussion band. Dorkay House activities range from classes in music and drama to film evenings and lectures. In 1969 Phoenix arranged performances for non-European audiences by Sarah Churchill, Gÿorgy Pauk and David Kossoff. There were also performances of An Ideal Husband, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof and the two plays presented by the visiting Cambridge University's, Dryden Society  (All's Well That Ends Well and Marat/Sade. It was in the rehearsal room of Dorkay House that productions like King Kong, The Emperor Jones, King of the Dark Chamber and Sponono were rehearsed. Here also Athol Fugard found his feet as playwright and director. The name, Rehearsal Room was coined by Athol Fugard for the group of enthusiastic, talented African actors who worked with him at that time. The first Fugard play No-Good Friday was born in Dorkay House. This was followed by Nongogo and then the play which made his reputation as a playwright of international reputation - The Blood Knot. During the period he was resident director in the Rehearsal Room the work of many modern playwrights, from Steinbeck to Pinter were included in the repertoire. A particularly memorable production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot won wide acclaim. One of the first Phoenix Players productions was the last Fugard play to be seen in Johannesburg, Hello and Goodbye. During the present season Athol Fugard will again work in the Rehearsal Room. One of his projects will be a play to be toured to the schools in the non-European townships.'
For more information
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page