20 Years Of Stage Magic At The Peoples Theatre!


The Peoples Theatre in Braamfontein celebrate 20 years of partnership with the Joburg Theatre complex this year. We sat down with their directors, Jill Girard and Keith Smith, to talk about this milestone anniversary and why they believe that children’s theatre has the power to shape young minds. 

Little People, Lots Of Theatre 

The Peoples Theatre has been in operation for 30 years. Spearheaded by theatre and television veterans, Jill Girard and Keith Smith, this dedicated children’s theatre house opened the doors for young people to experience the magic and wonder of live performance, regardless of their backgrounds. This year, The Peoples Theatre celebrates their 20th anniversary at Joburg Theatre. They are situated just above the main theatre complex, opposite the National School of the Arts. Driving past over weekends and during school holidays, you can often spot hordes of excited kiddies and eager parents waiting on the side street to step inside.

Peoples Theatre

A World Of Wonder

The Peoples Theatre interior is cosy and inviting, displaying all of the theatre’s past productions on the walls. While the space may feel a little tight to grown-ups, it’s the perfect size for little ones attending their first theatre show. Once you step inside the auditorium, an energy of anticipation fills the air. It’s a marvel to watch first-time theatre goers wait patiently for the show to begin as they can hardly imagine what to expect. Then, once the curtain rises and their favourite characters from books, movies and television appear right before their eyes, the love for theatre is evidently sparked.

As a lifetime theatre fanatic, I distinctly remember my first outing to The Peoples Theatre to see The Jungle Book. Aged eight and on a school trip for the day, I happily sat right in the front row. With baited breath I waited, as smoke machines billowed out a thick, mysterious fog across the stage. At first a little terrifying, the scene quickly transformed into a joyous song and dance spectacle. Now, The Peoples Theatre yet again present Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids, commemorating 20 years of hard work, dedication and tons of fun.

I sat down for a quick chat with the theatre’s directors to find out what their 20th anniversary at the Joburg Theatre complex means to them:

How did your partnership with Joburg Theatre come about?

Janice Honeyman, who was the CEO at the Joburg Theatre at the time, asked Peoples Theatre to move our infrastructure to Joburg Theatre. This was in order to facilitate our production house specialising in shows designed for children and families from all sectors of the community. A big thank you has to go out to Bernard Jay for all the support he showed The Peoples Theatre over the years he was CEO after Janice. We now have the great pleasure of dealing with Xoliswa Nduneni Ngema, the new CEO of the Joburg Theatre, who allows The Peoples Theatre to continue developing the minds of future theatre goers.

What has been your key highlights at The Peoples Theatre over the last 20 years?

Every production has been special in its own right. Our greatest joy was obtaining the rights for Disney’s junior shows, which has helped many young actors and technicians start their careers in musical theatre at the Peoples Theatre.

Why do you believe that children’s theatre is still relevant 20 years on?

Children’s theatre stimulates and encourages a lifetime of theatre going. The themes and sentiments of our shows are as relevant today and have a lasting impact on children who see these productions. Studies show that, “Experiencing live theatre enables a child to achieve a deeper understanding, social tolerance and a greater ability to question,” (Dr Natasha Kirkman).

How do you cater to audiences from preschool age to adulthood?

The content of the shows are appreciated on various levels, depending on the age of the child. A very young child is mesmerised by both the visual and auditory stimulation, whereas an older child and adults will respond to the dialogue, story line and morals drawn from each story, understanding conflict and resolve!

Why should parents bring their children to see your upcoming production of Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids?

The Jungle Book is a hugely popular story which has endured for many generations. It’s fun-filled with delicious humour, a beautiful set, with the most memorable music score. The hit song, Bare Necessities, is iconic.

How do you believe theatre can change or benefit the lives of young people who come from underprivileged backgrounds?

The Peoples Theatre has always welcomed all children, no matter how challenged they are financially, by offering reduced prices to schools. Theatre builds confidence, stimulates creativity and boosts children’s academic performance. We believe that there are both social and academic benefits from taking school groups to live performances.

Finally, can you give us some insight into the amount of work it takes to put on four productions per year at the Peoples Theatre? 

Each production, including set, costumes, staging, direction and casting takes approximately 6 – 8 weeks to develop for live performance, depending on the complexity of the piece.

For More Information

Click here for more information about The Jungle Books Kids, which will be on at the Peoples Theatre from Sunday, 08 March 2020 – Sunday, 26 April 2020.

You can also visit their website for details on upcoming shows, kids club memberships and school tours.

Contact details: Corner Loveday and Hoofd Streets, Joburg Theatre Complex, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | (011) 403-1563 / 2340 | info@peoplestheatre.co.za

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