Young 'uns

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Founding and early history

The Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival was inaugurated in 1960. In 1961 the organization presented its first production, The Lark. In 1974 Themi Venturas, who was elected president, and Lorraine Young (Kapp) was elected vice-Ppresident, launched an "under-the-age-of-twenty" group of players for the Festival which was called the Young 'uns. As their first production, they also produced The Lark. In 1976 there were 55 members, ranging in age from 13 to 19 years old. Among those Young 'uns who made a significant contribution to the performing arts in South Africa are Alice Krige, Philip Godawa, Themi Venturas, Rocky Mann, Paul Mann, Peter Mann, Gary Carter, Amber Cummins, Carol-Ann Kelleher, Jacquie Gates, Lorraine Kapp, Ian Liston, Mannie Fokos, Bruce Sanderson.

Aims and function

From April 4 - 7, 1976, a course on theatre was run in the little theatre at "Newlands," the home of Bruce Mann and Helen Mann, founders of the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival. The course opened with a general introduction to theatre and the Young 'uns by Lorraine Young, followed by a talk on the history of theatre by Bruce Mann and then a talk on Shakespeare by Themi Venturas.

The course ran from 9.30am every day and ended at 4 pm. Lectures on directing were given by Helen Mann, and theatre administration by Bruce Mann, who used a recording delivered by Nico Malan Theatre administrative manager Rodney Phillips' for the 1976 Andre Huguenet Memorial Lecture, to drive home many points. Talks on theatre designing, with a close look at basic set designing with an eye on cost and ease, and costumes, with particular reference to period costumes, were given by Themi Venturas and Edith Porter. Mrs Porter, one of the stalwarts of the festival, explained how to identify costume periods and the easiest way to find the correct costume for the right period. Port Elizabeth Public Library has one of the finest costume reference libraries in South Africa, which was built up by the former librarian, Mr Alf Porter, who is also a member of the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival. Costumes were taken out of the festival's wardrobe and shown together with slides of these costumes being worn in productions. Mrs Porter dressed two girls in the costumes and showed those on the course how to walk properly with the long trains. She also discussed costume design. Lectures in make-up, by Helen Mann and voice projection by Dorothy Sutherland followed. At the end of the course a play, written by one of the Young uns, Gary Garter, and played by Patrick Scott and Lorraine Young, was staged. According to Themi Venturas, this was very successful and was an encouragement to others to try their hand at writing plays. The Young 'uns were left alone to do their own thing as much as possible, learning all aspects of theatre through their own experiences. Adults only came to their assistance when called.

Current status

Impact on SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

1974: The Young 'uns produced The Lark.

1975: The Young 'uns produced The Queen and the Rebels, a play about a fleeing queen forced to accept the responsibilities of her position, was staged in the hall of the Holy Rosary Convent in Bird Street. Directed by Themi Venturas. Starring Bernadette Johnson (The Queen), Gwilym Wilkins (The Prince).

1976: The Young 'uns produced Antigone.

1977: The Young 'uns produced Our Town.

1978: The Young 'uns produced Point of Departure.

1979: The Young 'uns produced Night Must Fall (with Theatrum)

1980: The Young 'uns produced An Inspector Calls

1990; The Young 'uns produced The Lark at the Mannville Open Air Theatre in St George's Park, Port Elizabeth between January 30 and February 10, 1990. Directed by Linda-Louise Swain.


The Lark theatre programme, 1990.

Weekend Post, April 23, 1976, "Hats off to a fine band of young folk," article by Ralph Jarvis.

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