The Breytenbach Theatre has a colourful history and has seen many uses – from its humble beginnings as a German Community Hall to a hospital and eventually as a film and artist’s studio.
In 1955 the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) acquired the building and turned it into its current form, a theatre. The first production opened on 17 November 1958. In 1967 it was renamed the Breytenbach Theatre in honour of Dr PPB Breytenbach (Oom Breytie), then chairman of the NTO. It quickly, and fondly, became known simply as “The Breytie”.
After the NTO had been split into various Performing Arts Councils, the Performing Arts Council of Transvaal (PACT) continued to stage productions in the Breytie until the State Theatre in Pretoria was opened in 1981.
During its illustrious life as a professional theatre its stage was graced by the who’s who of South African theatre and the back stage was the learning ground for many technicians. Who can forget some of the memorable performances by the likes of Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Cobus Rossouw and Franz Marx, to name a few of a very long list.
Technicon Pretoria bought the Breytenbach Theatre in 1984 as a training venue for its Drama, Opera and Theatre Crafts students. Today the theatre is the primary venue used by the University’s academic programmes, such as Vocal Art, Drama, Music, Dance and Musical Theatre, to present live shows to the public. This gives students the practical experience they need in their respective fields of study. The Department of Performing Arts Technology uses the Breytie as a practical training ground for their students and it is a showcase for the services they render to the industry. These students provide all technical and design services for the student productions in the Breytie, including scenery, props, costumes, make-up, lighting and sound – in terms of both design and execution.
The Breytie is a practical and technical training venue for productions that are staged to prepare the students for the conditions they will encounter once they have graduated and are working in the industry.