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Wits Theatre - Performing Arts Centre
Johannesburg, Gauteng



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26°11'34.40" S 28°01'53.85" E Alt: 1760m

Don Lennard was appointed as architect and David Horner suggested that the famed British designer, John Bury, be appointed as technical advisor. Bury’s expertise meant that the Wits Theatre gained unique features that determined the theatre’s adaptability. As designed, the theatre can function as both a conventional proscenium-arch venue, and as a thrust stage venue (where the stage projects into the audience, much like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England). In an echo of the ancient, classical origins of theatre, the Wits Theatre has two Roman ‘vomitoria’ – entrances for actors leading onto the stage from under the arena-style, steeply raked audience seating. The Wits Theatre was intentionally designed to create a microcosm of the larger theatres (e.g. the State Theatre). In this space, the students would experience most of the technical aspects of a theatre, albeit in a miniature version.

An empty space underneath the auditorium was initially designated as a storeroom. John Bury suggested that the space could be more usefully employed as a small experimental theatre, and a subsequent bit of subterfuge (in the form of duplicate plans lacking the necessary detail) allowed approval of the final plan by the Finance Committee.

[WITSReview Volume 5 July 2008]

Writings about this entry

Images Publishing Group. 1991. Architects of South Africa (International profile series). Melbourne, Australia: Images Pub. Group. pg 64 ill, 65