Adam Small. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) ARCHIVES

Cape Town - The refurbished theatre complex of Stellenbosch University (SU) will be named after award-winning poet and playwright, Adam Small.

The Drama Department proposed and motivated the naming after a considered and inclusive process.

The Executive Committee of the SU Council, which approves the names of buildings in accordance with the applicable SU policy, recently accepted the name at the recommendation of the Rectorate and the SU Committee for the Naming of Buildings, Venues and other Facilities/Premises.

Small’s widow, Dr Rosalie Small, has already given her approval for the naming of the complex after her late husband.

“Stellenbosch University is grateful and proud to be associated with the rich legacy of Adam Small. We would like to see the vision of human dignity and healing justice to which he as an academic and playwright was committed, realised,” said Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor.

Prof Nico Koopman, Vice-Rector: Transformation, Social Impact and Personnel said that Adam Small used his academic pursuit, and specifically his many works in Afrikaans as instruments of transformation. “During apartheid, he helped us to move away from apartheid towards a democratic society, and now his legacy helps us to put his democratic vision of human dignity into practice.”

“With this name change, SU wants to pay tribute to an icon. Without denying the past, we are saying that in future, we will include, and not the other way round,” says Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation. “The name change is part of a process of visual redress and representation to make even more people feel at home on our campuses.”

CHERISHED: Professor Adam Small and his wife Rosalie at worked together in their home in Heathfield, in what they affectionately called their office. Picture: Willem Law

The Hertzog Prize for Drama of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns was awarded to Small in 2012 for his entire oeuvre, and specifically for Kanna, hy kô huistoe (1965).

“The name was tabled in initial discussions about a name change at the end of 2017 already. In 2015 SU awarded Small, who is regarded as a role model, an honorary doctorate. His commitment to Afrikaans and his contribution to specifically Kaaps Afrikaans (Cape Afrikaans) as poet and playwright served as further motivation for the proposal,” adds Dr Mareli Pretorius, incoming Chairperson of the Drama Department at SU.

The large auditorium in the theatre complex is currently known as the HB Thom Theatre and although this name will no longer be used, it will be contextualised in the building. Before the refurbishment, the theatre consisted exclusively of a single auditorium, but the creative space now includes a seminar room and a smaller laboratory theatre. The Adam Small Theatre complex thus refers to the multifunctional facility as a whole.

Stellenbosch University's newly refurbished theatre complex. Picture:  Stefan Els

The newly-expanded large auditorium boasts a mechanised system to lift even heavy décor pieces during shows, modern lighting that is fully LED functional and sound system that all comply with international standards. In the auditorium with its 324 seats, the lay-out is ideally suited to provide the audience with a superb visual experience. 

This theatre, as well as a second, smaller laboratory theatre and a brand new seminar room can be used commercially for both the performing arts and other functions such as conferences, lecture series and other events.

The adjacent Drama Department, which will now for the first time functionally join the theatre complex, has two new sound studios, a television recording studio and editor’s suite; a computer user area; as well as refurbished and spacious rehearsal rooms and redesigned workplaces, including the theatre workshop, two props rooms and a costume studio and store.

“An extensive and inclusive process was followed to determine the name for the theatre complex. Amongst others, meetings with the various year groups of the Drama Department delivered an overwhelmingly positive response,” said Pretorius.

She added that the Student Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was also consulted, while a notice of the proposed name was circulated amongst specific community structures within the broader Stellenbosch area – together with a request for feedback. These include the Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch 360, e'Bosch and the Stellenbosch Council of Churches. A similar notice about the process, context and motivation for the name change was also sent to festival directors of the various national arts festivals while personal conversations were held with a selected group of alumni.

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Cape Argus