Rob Amato

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Rob Amato (1943-2006) was a lecturer , actor, playwright and director, and legal journalist.


Born Roberto Amato (but popularly known as Rob) in Johannesburg on 12 June 1943 and schooled at Marist Brothers.

He was married to Hildur Amato and they had three children Ben, Bianca, and Carlos.

He died tragically in a motor accident in 2006.


He studied politics and English literature at the then University of Natal and as a Rhodes Scholar also studied at Oxford University.


Until the 1970s, Amato worked in his family's Johannesburg textile business. In the 1980’s he turned to the world of academia, teaching English literature and theatre studies at the University of Natal, University of Cape Town, and Rhodes University in Grahamstown, though retaining his interest in theatre, but by the 1990s he moved to Cape Town to get involved in what he called "community politics", especially community policing. In 2000 he returned to Johannesburg to become a legal columnist for The Sunday Independent.

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

In 1970 became a co-founder (with Skhala Xinwa) of Imitha Players of East London, for whom he directed i.a. local adaptations of Oedipus Rex (1971), Molière's The Miser (1975), Wole Soyinka’s The Swamp Dwellers, and work by Jean-Paul Sartre. He later moved to Cape Town and worked at The Space Theatre. He directed Matsemela Manaka’s Egoli and (along with Makwedini Mtsaka) Fatima Dike’s The Sacrifice of Kreli, Market Theatre 1987.

He acted in Female Transport and his own play, The Mind Mirror.

At this time he also founded the influential literary magazine, Speak, which unfortunately only existed for a few issues.

He took over The Space when Brian Astbury left for London in 1980 and – with Moira Fine - ran it as The People's Space. For them he directed work such as Sam Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth, David Hare’s Fanshen and Chris Barnard’s Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey.

In 1989 he co-directed (with Bo Petersen) a successful new version of The Road to Mecca for CAPAB , with Lida Meiring as “Helen Martins”.

Some of the plays he wrote are Not For The Deserving, Gilette & Bertrand (a comedy with music, 2000), The Ecstatic Phantasmagoria of Doctor Fortunato and Baas Botha's Coming.



CAPAB Brochure, Aug-Nov 1989.

Sunday Independent, 29 July 2006.

Sunday Times, 30 July 2006.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

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