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ansisters 5 august 2005

Unravelling, a performance by Sarah Fraser documented at the 2005 FACE/Ansisters opening event. 

Copyright © FACE 2005.
All rights reserved.

studio : participants : hillbrow theatre project

Expressive Arts
Curriculum Development
Focus Groups

Amanda Gifford

hillbrow theatre
Hillbrow Theatre performance.

hillbrow children

hillbrow children

hillbrow youth

hillbrow workshop

hillbrow workshop

hillbrow theatre



Hillbrow Community Outreach Theatre Project

by Amanda Gifford

"The soul desires to dwell with the body because without the members of the body it can neither act nor feel" Leonardo Da Vinci

The Hillbrow Community Outreach Theatre Project creates a prestigious ongoing learning community environment in the field of the Dramatic Arts. It maintains a professional standard and serves to uplift the inner city of Hillbrow in Johannesburg.



There is—within the heart of each of us—a creative spirit. At times it is forgotten, but it can never be lost; for creative expression through the arts is our native language. Each of us has the capacity to reawaken the language of image and metaphor, and through it, to reconnect with the deeper aspects of ourselves and our world. The arts are a gateway to our inner worlds, expressing senses, intuitions, memories, and feelings that are not always accessible through words. Through the arts we can balance our culture's bias toward linear ways of knowing, and reclaim our wholeness.

Throughout most of human history, the power of the arts for personal and cultural transformation has been recognized. Each culture has had its tradition of sacred arts, ceremonies and rituals through which the society reclaimed its wholeness and expressed its vital spirit. These societies knew that the process of art-making brings each individual into the present, into contact with the body and the senses, into experiencing the life flow. They knew too that through the arts we connect deeply with one another and the community regenerates itself at the wellspring of creativity.

Central to an expressive arts approach is the belief that the process of making art is as important as the content it expresses. The creative process itself can be healing. Awakening the artist within themselves, clients bring the wisdom of the dreaming mind into the light of day. They re-ignite the creative spirit, see things in a new way, and contact the dynamism and power to confront life's challenges. Even when struggling with painful or frightening issues, the creative experience of expressing through art is often empowering, joyful, and beautiful in its truthfulness.

In addition, the arts are a powerful doorway into buried memories and feelings which are not readily accessed through exclusively verbal therapies. Long lost childhood experiences can be relived and resolved and their relevance to one's current behavior and experience understood.



  1. To contribute to personal development, healing, and engendering of community- enhancing values and behaviour patterns amongst especially the youth in the area;
  2. To impart appreciation for, skills and abilities in dramatic arts to participants, and through this to develop in some the ability to use such skills for income generation.
  3. To develop cultural appreciation and practice in the community.



Young people, drawn from unemployed youth and school-going youth, attend the project with the focus on aim i. They participate in a structured programme that has a clear progression of development in areas 1. and ii. clear indicators by which achievement of goals in 1. and 2. can be measured.
From those unemployed youth who show aptitude and interest, a pool of young people who receive further training, especially in aspect 2., is gleaned. These young adults are supported to form viable theatre groups with some capacity for income generation.
From these, some young adults are selected who undergo training as facilitators. These are the facilitators who do the workshops with the youth in A and B. Facilitators are on learnerships of 2-3 years, and should, in that time, obtain qualifications that enable them to move on.
This programme is managed and led by a professionally qualified person, who structures programme, curriculum, aims, indicators for A. and evaluates suitability of potential facilitators. S/he structures a course for facilitators (C) , using both his own input, skills of other persons who are invited to come in on volunteer/ honorarium basis, and courses offered by other institutions. She creates links and develops opportunities for theatre groups to develop profile and showcase the project (B). The end result of training for facilitators should, in the long term, give them opportunities either for further training or for employment elsewhere. This person should take leadership in developing the project, creating links that will benefit the project, and, with the manager, raise funds for the project.

As the project develops, more support staff may be employed, depending on need and sustainability.



  1. To give workshops that heal individual and the community as a whole eg: working with diversity and conflict resolution skills
  2. Create partnerships with schools and businesses, community organisations and other similar institutions
  3. To have a professional running theatre in terms of legality so as to be a recognised institution nationally and internationally.



  • to bring in big productions like African Footprints/ Sarafina
  • to attract paying audiences
  • to change the perception of Hillbrow
  • Community Theatre project runs courses registered with the NQF for theatre courses for school goers and for school leavers.


Curriculum Development

  • Assessment of needs and skills
  • Course Material Development and workshoping
  • Implementation of course Feb 2005 - Oct 2005
  • Debriefing/ Feedback/ Support/ Reassessment/
  • Ongoing trainings and supervision


Theatre trainings for children and facilitators

2004: Workshops Completed

  • Sat 9am - 1pm: 3 x sessions for Assessment (Oct)
  • Sat 9am - 1pm : 5 x sessions for Curriculum Development (Nov)

2005: Projection

  • Workshop Implemented (Feb - Sept) and
  • Assessed year end ( Sept/Oct)
  • Development of a second course, planning, materials development, workshopping ( Sept/ Oct/ Nov)
  • Ansisters project and Hillbrow Theatre Empowerment Constellations 8 & 9 August 2005
  • Friday Night Open Shows

2006: Projection

  • Jan/ Feb: Revise and submit for NQF standardisation for High School Drama curriculum



  • Creative Facilitator: Amanda Gifford
  • Theatre Facilitators: Linda Mike Mkhwanazi, Evans Majozi, Denny Dube, Marvelous Malinga, Abel Mandoza Mthembu, S’bu Philip Jones, Fafisto Baphi Dladla



Theatre as a learning tool for transformation and change providing windows of opportunity for the following:

  • Victim/Survivor Empowerment
  • Awareness of Diversity in Expression
  • Restoration of self other and community
  • Skills Developement and tranfer
  • Capacity Building
  • Inner City Hillbrow Development
  • Arts/ Education
  • Youth Empowerment
  • Building Bridges



Community Theatre Development workshop

Three groups focused in areas:

  1. assessment/ relationship building with facilitators/ establishing rapport
  2. focus on the future/ ideas of the facilitators for the project
  3. proposal writing


Participants Feedback

Training One: 25th Sept 2004

  • " A learning day, an empowerment day..."
  • "We need info packs to give out..."
  • " I've learnt new things; different to what i know"
  • " I felt like I was learning new skills"
  • " Boosted my spirit. Its a 'different church' ! Due to art it rbings the art spirit!"
  • " I was able to focus on what I do in the field of art and helping the community!"

Training Session Two: 16th Oct 2004

  • " I tried what you taught me and it worked!"
  • " It was fun to have new ideas"
  • " The children responded well to the drama exercises"



These groups served as assessment of the standard of the drama work and to further understand the needs and ideas of the facilitators in the building of a community theatre training curriculum. The groups consisted of drama games and exercises to get to know eachother and then moved onto a brainstorm and discussion about their dreams and hopes and ideas for the Hillbrow Community Theatre Project.

Each member that participated showed incredible dedication, love of their work, care for the cause and talent in their field. I was impressed with all of them, although attendance was only four out of seven on the first workshop and five out of seven on the second, with one leaving half way through.


Course Curriculum Ideas for Development

  1. Theatre Classes Open Ended: Basics in Theatre ( Introductory theatre groups for school children in the Hillbrow Surroundings)
  2. Theatre History and Philosophy: South African Playrights and international influences
  3. Influential innovators of style and thought in theatre :Augusto Boal/ Stanislavsky/ Brecht/ Artaud/...
  4. Theatre in Education
  5. Industrial Theatre and Drama as a methodology for learning
  6. Alternatives to Violence Drama as methodology
  7. Playback Theatre
  8. Devising and Directing
  9. Drama and Healing the self - Drama Therapy: Self Revelatory theatre
  10. Implementing Projects

Posted 22 May 2005,, author: Amanda Gifford.