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Developing a methodology for creative interpretation of traditional dramatic texts in post-apartheid theatre: a case study of Shakespearean interpretation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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While student demographics in higher education have changed to reflect South Africa’s multicultural society, many universities are still offering traditional Drama curricula with colonial-based content. This thesis focuses on developing a methodology for the creative interpretation of traditional Shakespearean texts in the post-apartheid theatre and educational space. Shakespeare is still the most read and most often produced playwright in the world, but the thesis argues that if his texts are to be taught, this cannot be in an ahistorical or political vacuum, and the focus should be on performance. From within a constructivist approach, a case study methodology was used to explore combining Text Study with workshop theatre to facilitate the interpretation of traditional texts, as well as integrating discrete syllabus items into a holistic teaching and learning process. Digital technology was used as an innovative part of the proposed teaching and learning methodology, as the current student body are now the ‘virtual generation’. Constructivist pedagogy, together with postcolonial and decolonial theories, provided the theoretical framework for the study. The empirical work was in the form of a case study, comprising teaching the Text Study module and developing a production as part of the process, and was carried out as an extra-curricular research project with students of the Drama Education Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The socio-political-economic context was post-apartheid South Africa, with the student group being predominantly African, and the majority, isiZulu-speaking, who were for the most part, economically - and educationally - disadvantaged. At the time the empirical work was carried out, the Drama Education Department curriculum at UKZN was heavily loaded with the study of classical texts, in particular, Shakespearean plays. The results suggested that the methodology developed not only resulted in an enthusiastic response from student participants, but also led to a more scholarly approach to the actual texts. It also gave the participants, who were student teachers, insights into ways in which Drama Education could be dealt with in their own teaching practice. The product of the research was a model of teaching methodology for creative interpretation of Western traditional dramatic texts in Africa contexts. This pedagogical approach has the potential to form the core of an agential curriculum transformation process in Drama Education, as well as ultimately contributing to the decolonising of not only Shakespeare but university disciplines emerging out of the Liberal Arts.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.