Performance polemics in a plural society : South African theatre in transition.
"It was clearly the Government (by a great section of the electorate) that brought politics into the theatre, and we, the producers, the actors, the theatre-goers must pay the price for it." Alan Paton. This thesis attempts to analyse the way South African Theatre is developing against a background of social transition within a political framework which has enforced a policy of separate development based on racial distinction and ethnicity. Signs of political reform are beginning to show - not only as a result of pressure from within and without - but also because economic interdependency between the groups is breaking down barriers as the third world sector of the population aspires to the attractions of the first world urban sector. Polemical issues in the performing arts, which have risen out of the prevailing socio-economic climate, range from global attempts at cultural isolation of South Africa to such pragmatic matters as absorbing into actor-training programmes the various sectors of the community with their particular ethnic and linguistic identities preserved in an apartheid system. The research takes into account the history of the South African people and the various modes of theatre which have evolved as a result of natural and, later, imposed segregation of the various cultural groups. It examines, too, the dominant cuItural trends imported from Europe which have formed an infra-structure for South African theatre from training programmes to theatre managements, as well as criteria for critical assessment of theatre as a codified form of dramatic performance. It analyses the politically sensitive but vital issue of arts funding where most sponsorship emanates from public sources. It looks at actor-training programmes in terms of cultural service to the community and the diverse needs of the performance industry and takes into account the changing focus in some tertiary drama departments in an effort to adapt to transitional social conditions. It also takes cognisance of the prevailing mood of social consciousness amongst those artists who sense the need to move towards a theatre which expresses the collective experience of the South African situation. Whether this is possible in a country as culturally diverse as South Africa and whether the socio-political climate and reform measures which the government has adopted are conducive to the growth of a genre of theatre uniquely South African in its synthesis of endogenous and exogenous traditions - a theatre that will have cross-cultural appeal - is one of the major thrusts of this research.
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