Athol Fugard is South Africa’s most significant and internationally acclaimed playwright. For over fifty years, he has written soul-searing plays with roles for all South Africans, which have moved audiences in South Africa and around the world to laughter and tears as they reflected the racism, barbarity and inhumanity of apartheid. Working with South Africa’s most distinguished and loved actors, John Kani, the late Zakes Mokae and others, he was among the first to create iconic black characters whose narratives profoundly changed how millions of people viewed apartheid.
In his over thirty plays Athol Fugard champions truth and fundamental universal humanity. In 2011 he received the ultimate recognition from the world’s most prestigious theatre community – a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.
The Fugard Theatre was proud to bear his name, and its staff members worked hard to honour him by providing a crucible of creativity and a beacon for all South Africans regardless of race, colour, gender or creed.
The Fugard Theatre was located in District 6 and honoured the history and memory of that vibrant community so savagely uprooted during the apartheid era. The building today is operated by the owners of the precinct and is called the HCC: Homecoming Centre.
Eric Abraham is an Academy award-winning film, television and theatre producer, best known for producing the Academy award-winning Czech Language film Kolya (1996 Best Foreign Language Film) directed by Jan Sverak (the Czech Republic’s first Oscar) and the Academy Award-winning Polish language film Ida ( 2014 Best Foreign Language Film) directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland’s first Oscar) as well as for producing Oliver Hermanus’s feature Moffie, which premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival in 2019.
A South African-born former journalist and human rights activist, he was banned and house-arrested by the apartheid government in 1976 and exiled for 15 years. He was a BBC TV Current Affairs producer for the primetime weekly show Panorama before forming Portobello Productions. He has produced many acclaimed television dramas, including John le Carre’s A Murder of Quality and the BBC TV crime series Dalziel & Pascoe.
Films he has produced include Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World, Jan Sverak’s Dark Blue World and Empties, Tim Roth’s The War Zone, Jiri Menzel’s The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Ivan Chonkin, Jez Butterworth’s Mojo, Joshua Marston’s The Forgiveness of Blood.
With his wife, publisher and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, he co-founded Portobello Books, the publishing imprint, in 2005. Later that year, they acquired the highly regarded literary journal Granta and Granta Books.
As a theatre producer, his credits include; Hugh Whitemore’s adaptation of Pirandello’s As you Desire Me, starring Bob Hoskins and Kristin Scott-Thomas, and Christopher Hampton’s stage version of Sandor Marai’s Embers, which marked Jeremy Irons’ return to the stage after twenty years directed by the Tony award-winning Michael Blakemore. Polly Stenham’s multi-award-winning That Face and the acclaimed West End transfer of Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, 2011.
He has commissioned new plays from, amongst others, Nicholas Wright, Hugh Whitemore, Frank McGuinness and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.
In 2006 and 2010, he set up and produced Isango Portobello, a collaboration with Artistic Director Mark Dornford-May. Their first productions together were The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo, a highly original acapella and marimba version of Mozart’s much-loved work and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – Ikrismas IKherol, which was set in Africa.
The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo premiered in Cape Town in 2008 at the Baxter Theatre, which then transferred to the Young Vic in London to great acclaim and sold-out houses. It then moved to the Duke of York’s theatre for a successful West End run, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival in 2008 before touring internationally.
He also produced the acclaimed revival of Isango Portobello’s production of The Mysteries – Yiimimangaliso in Cape Town in 2009, before a West End transfer to The Garrick Theatre.
In 2009 Eric commissioned and underwrote the building of The Fugard Theatre in the District 6 area in the heart of Cape Town. The Fugard Theatre opened in 2010 as a home for storytelling and primarily for South African performing arts and theatre-making talent.
During the time the Fugard operated, Eric underwrote the entire operational and production budget of the Fugard Theatre, as well as commissioning and producing many new South African works, including Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver (The Hampstead/The Market Theatre), Nicholas Wright’s A Human Being Died that Night (The Fugard/The Market Theatre/The Hampstead Theatre/BAM) and David Kramer’s musicals, Blood Brothers, Kat and the Kings, Orpheus in Africa and District 6 – Kanala, the only performance commemorating the 50th anniversary of the removals of the District Six community of some 60,000 strong.
Over and above new South African musicals, Eric also focused on delivering ambitious all South African productions of Broadway and West End musicals, including The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story, Cabaret and Kinky Boots, amongst others.
Most proudly, Eric produced a new production of the iconic first Black South African musical King Kong, written by Pat Williams and featured music by Todd Matshikiza. It was adapted by Academy award nominated playwright and screenwriter Bill Nicholson and directed by Jonathan Munby. In early 2019 he produced the last show on The Fugard Studio stage – Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold” … and the Boys, directed by Greg Karvellas and featuring Desmond Dube (King Kong) and Kai Luke Brummer (Moffie).
In September 2021, following its prolonged closure as a result of the Covid pandemic, Eric announced The Fugards permanent closure and returned the buildings that housed the Fugard Theatre Complex to the freehold owner, The District 6 Museum. The complex was handed back with two fully equipped performance spaces in the hope that it will be able to be used for the benefit of the District 6 Museum and Community.
Initially, the newly built Fugard theatre management consisted of Eric Abraham as the founding producer, Mark Dornford-May and Pauline Malefane As Co-Artistic Directors. Mannie Manim, a long-term supporter and Lighting Designer for the Isango company, joined the team full-time as Executive Director for The Fugard in January 2010. Manim worked as Executive Director alongside Georgina Rae as General Manager, Shamila Rahim as Theatre Manager, and Stephen Sacks and Vanessa Sacks in the Finance Department. In addition, Iris Bolton headed up the front of the house as Front of House Manager, and Ingrid Stemmert handled Box Office duties.
Mark Dornford-May, Mannie Manim and the Isango management team operated The Fugard Theatre from its official opening in February 2010 before parting ways in November 2010.
Eric Abraham then secured Daniel Galloway as the new General Manager to re-invigorate the Fugard artistic mission and make The Fugard Theatre a venue for all South African theatre makers. Daniel and Eric appointed a young team to begin a new era at the Fugard Theatre in December 2010.
Iris Bolton, Ingrid Stemmert, Stephen Sacks and Vanessa Sacks were part of the original staff complement who began with Isango Portobello at the Fugard and, except for Ingrid Stemmert, who retired in 2018, stayed on staff until the permanent closure of the theatre in 2021.
Lamees Albertus, Jaco Nothnagel and Alicia Price (along with original staff members Stephen Sacks, Vanessa Sacks, Iris Bolton and Ingrid Stemmert) made up the new core team of the Fugard.
Daniel Galloway began his time at the Fugard first as General Manager before becoming the Executive Director and then finally the Managing Director and Lead Producer, before stepping down in 2020. Under Daniel’s leadership and energetic and enabling approach, the staff of the Fugard grew into a world-class theatre management and support team that worked successfully as a diverse theatre-making machine and raised the bar of how theatre was produced in South Africa.
Lamees Albertus, who started as an Office Assistant in 2010, became the Fugard’s Theatre Manager and Co-Producer and later took over the reins from Daniel Galloway as General Manager in 2020. Lamees worked alongside Daniel and Eric, driving the day-to-day operations, producing shows and managing the Fugard staff. Lamees was a cornerstone of the Fugard Theatre’s success.
Managing Director Producer
Office Administrator/Events Coordinator
Theatre Manager/Associate Producer
Kyle Alexander functioned as the Office Administrator and Events Coordinator, assisting Lamees Albertus in various duties. Kyle was preceded by Elizabeth Ridgeway and Shayna Gleave, who filled the same position before his arrival.
Georgia Lahusen joined the team in 2017 as a Junior Associate Producer and later progressed to Associate Producer and Social Media Manager, working closely with Daniel Galloway and Lamees Albertus on all production-related matters, including managing the audition processes.
Under the leadership of Daniel Galloway, the team increased in size with the addition of Greg Karvellas. Greg joined as a bar manager in 2011 and became the Production Manager in 2012 after the departure of Jaco Nothnagel. After a short sabbatical, Greg returned as General Manager and Resident Director in 2014 before being appointed as the first Artistic Director of the Fugard in 2018.
As part of the creative management team, Daniel Galloway developed an in-house AV and Media team responsible for producing content, posters, advertising and social media material, graphic design, and visual elements for productions. Initially made up solely of James Cooke as Graphic Designer, the multi-talented media team expanded in 2016 to include Daniel Rutland Manners, who filmed, shot and edited all Fugard video content and stills photography. In addition, Daniel Rutland Manners was ultimately responsible for the iconic look and feel of all Fugard rehearsal, production and opening night images. In 2018 Claude Bernado took over from Daniel Manners and continued to develop world-class content for all Fugard Theatre productions.
Ronel Botha, who joined as Bar Staff in 2011, became The Fugard’s Bar Manager before working up to the position of Financial Manager. Kanyane Dorsaint and Olivier Lefkada, who also joined as bar staff in 2011, later became the Bar Co-Managers, with Olivier taking over as the Senior Accountant of The Fugard. Mirand Kiaku initially joined as a member of the bar staff and later became the Bar Duty Manager. Completing the front-of-house team was Aziez Gabier, who took over the role of Box Office Manager. Shakira Israel, who worked with Ingrid Stemmert at the box office, supported Aziez as Co-Box Office Manager after Ingrid Stemmet retired in April 2018. In addition, Shirley Alexander was part of the box office team and worked on an ad-hoc basis.
Iris Bolton, one of The Fugard’s longest serving members as Front of House Manager, headed up the front-of-house teams, including ushers, and the building care teams who, guided by Iris’s keen eye, ensured that the building was kept spotless, both in patron areas as well as backstage and that patrons were assisted in any way required. In addition, hundreds of contract ushering staff worked at The Fugard over the years, many becoming artists in their own right and some moving to form part of the production teams on many shows. Armed with an empathetic approach to patrons and artists, patience and her iconic brass bell, Iris remains another cornerstone of Fugard’s success, especially in patron care and audience engagement.
Of all the teams in the Fugard, the production department was the one that evolved the fastest as production size and demands grew. Initially, the crew consisted of Jaco Nothnagel as Production Manager and Temba Stewart as Resident Stage Manager, who Matthew Lewis later replaced for a short term. Clynt Hlubi, who assisted on many of the first productions at the Fugard, filled multiple roles at The Fugard over the years, from lighting operator and rigger to assistant Techincal Stage Manager. Ben Du Plessis joined early in 2012 as a stage technician and later became the technical manager and was primarily responsible for executing the Fugards technological expansion on and off stage. After running the bar from 2011, Greg Karvellas took over from Jaco as Production Manager before leaving to pursue directing. Greg was replaced by theatre stalwart Johan Kupferburger who had been part of the original Isango management team as Theatre Manager. After Johan’s departure, Roberto Grove, who joined in 2014 as a technical assistant, signed on as Production Manager. After a successful tenure, Roberto was headhunted and replaced by Luke Ellenbogen as Production Manager until the theatre closed. Sean Whitehead, who began his journey with the Fugard in 2015 as a gauze operator on Orpheus In Africa, joined full-time as an Associate Lighting Designer and Programmer in 2018 before becoming Assistant Production Manager. The stage management team, headed by Juanita Van Wyk, who initially worked on a contract basis, was taken on as the Resident Senior Stage Manager, responsible for company and stage managing productions as well as managing the technical office and teams. Shayna Gleave, the Fugard’s Resident Technical Manager, who worked closely with Juanita, began her time at the Fugard as an office assistant in 2013. Ulibo Maake joined as a contract Stage Manager and became the Resident Junior Stage Manager. Achmat Khroodien, who began in the building care department, became an integral part of Fugard’s technical production team and ultimately became Assistant Technical Stage Manager with Marie Roux, who joined later. Finally, Angelo Pietersen began as an ad-hoc crew member and later joined as a full-time technical assistant. Hundreds of contract production staff, stage managers and technical crew, many not named here, also worked at the Fugard over the years.
Widaad Albertus joined the Fugard team as a contract wardrobe assistant and ultimately became the Head of Wardrobe, supported by Francis Moedyk as Dresser. Widaad Albertus would go on to take on the role of Costume Designer for various productions and assisted Resident Costume Designer Birrie Le Roux and incoming designers on shows. Widaad and Francis were also responsible for managing all Fugard Theatre wardrobe stock, creating an impressive ad well-organised inventory.
Over the ten years, the Fugard Theatre team expanded and grew, with many who joined being allowed to grow and excel at their craft. The ethos of the Fugard was one of the enabling of South African talent. This ethos led to the creation of several residency programs where essential production creatives were brought on as full-time staff to work on all Fugard productions with the space to take on external projects. Most notably, the residency positions were taken up by Louis Viljoen as a writer in residence, Birrlie Le Roux as a Resident costume designer and Charl Johan Lingenfelder, the Fugard’s Resident Musical Director.
Added to the enablement of South African talent, international directing, lighting and set design talent was secured to work on some productions produced by The Fugard. For example, UK director Johnathan Munby was secured to direct A Human Being Died That Night as well as King Kong and worked with British Set Designer Paul Wills and Lighting Designer Tim Mitchelle. In addition, local associates were assigned to international creatives allowing for the mentorship of indigenous talent.
Another critical factor in Fugard’s ability to create so many world-class productions was the involvement of a network of regular South African service providers who served Fugard’s operational and production needs. Carl Gersbach of CHG Engineering was a key collaborator in bringing many of the Fugard theatre’s set structures to life with his passion and engineering expertise. Gerhard Morkel was the master craftsman and carpenter who worked with Set Designers like the late Award-winning Saul Radomsky to bring designs to life. Aki Khan, David Claasens and their team from Eastern Acoustics, and Mark Malherbe from Pro Sound were instrumental in providing sound gear and meeting audio technical requirements. Audio Technology Solutions, owned by Richard Weir, offered support in productions but was also crucial in setting up and maintaining The Fugard Bioscope. Graham Muir from Cape Town Markets was also a highly valued continuing supporter of the work at the Fugard, especially in respect of David Kramer’s musicals.
Last but certainly not least was Indaba Security, which provided not only reliable security services but who were also the first port of call for all those who visited the Fugard. From providing show information to assisting disabled and elderly patrons to and from their cars, this first line of defence was Fugard’s first line of much appreciated and talked about hospitality. The Fugard Theatre experience began on the red carpet leading up to the front door.
The Fugard family was indeed that; a community made up of a group of diverse and passionate South Africans from different backgrounds who recognised what the Fugard was there to do and poured every ounce of their being into making it the very best theatre in the country.
Construction begins on the newly designed Fugard Theatre in late 2009. Built in an astonishing 6 months, the theatre opens with Isango Portobello in residence on the 11th of February, 2010. In November 2010, Isango Portobello and founding produced Eric Abraham part ways, and a new management team is brought in.
The new management is led by Daniel Galloway as General manager, and a new commercial model for producing shows is established. The building goes through its first evolution with the removal of the original bench seating, which is replaced with more traditional single theatre seating installed. "Kat and The Kings" is revived and sets a record at the Fugard for audience attendance and length of a run. It is also the first musical produced at the Fugard. The Studio Theatre is opened, and the Fugard Bioscope (cinema) is established.
The second and third evolution of the theatre's seating takes place with significant reconstruction in the Main Theatre with the extension of the 2 balconies and addition of seats in 2013. This increases the capacity of the Fugard in time for "The Rocky Horror Show", which breaks audience attendance records. In mid-2015, the seating rake is changed to add more seats and improve sightlines. The Studio establishes itself as a drama stage. The Fugard produces more international musicals and develops new South African musicals and dramatic plays. The South African premiere of "The Shadow of The Hummingbird" starring Athol Fugard, is staged in the Studio Theatre.
The Fugard embarks on its first large-scale, non-replica production, "West Side Story". After 20 years of development, Producer Eric Abraham greenlights the revival of "King Kong (Legend Of A Boxer)", which premieres at the Fugard Theatre on the Main Stage. The first Artistic Director is appointed, and a new artistic vision begins to be developed with a focus on new writing and South African work. The Fugard Bioscope continues to grow in popularity.
The first season is announced as "10 Years and Counting", featuring 3 new commissioned South African works. "Kinky Boots" is produced and is the last musical to be staged along with a revival production of "'Master Harold'... and The Boys". Daniel Galloway steps down as Managing Director and hands over leadership to Producer Lamees Albertus. The Covid-19 pandemic shuts down all theatres across South Africa and The Fugard is shuttered. In September 2021, Founding Producer Eric Abraham decides to close The Fugard permanently and hands back the building with two theatres to the precinct owners, The District Six Museum.
The Fugard website is turned into a free access archive containing information on the history of the building, how it was constructed and an in-depth listing of all shows produced, staged and hosted by The Fugard Theatre.