Daphne Kuhn is that friendly face welcoming theatre-goers at the opening of new shows at Theatre on the Square. Her passion for the performing arts is unmistakable.
Kuhn is the owner, producer and artistic director of the Theatre on the Square. She holds an MA Degree in Drama from the University of Pretoria, as well as diplomas in Public Relations and classical piano (ATCL).
“Since childhood, my passion and experience in theatre has covered all aspects of this art form, which I have worked tirelessly to keep alive,” she says. “My experience ranges from professional acting, directing, teaching and lecturing to publicity, marketing and producing. I have held key positions with the SABC television drama department, the Market Theatre and the Civic Theatre (now Joburg Theatre), prior to establishing my first theatre.”
Theatre on the Square started in Rosebank in 1994 and, in 1997, moved to Sandton.
“It was established at a time when people were bemoaning the demise of theatre and it originated out of the need to fill the gap for a venue in a secure and accessible area on the northern side of town,” she says. “I encouraged the developers of the new Sandton Square Shopping Centre at Sandton City at the time, Stocks and Stocks, to work with me to establish a theatre that would bring people to the shopping centre,” she said.
“I have fortunately had a number of corporates on board over the years to assist me with the enormous financial demands in running a theatre business. I am thrilled that the current sponsor and holder of the naming rights, insurance giant Auto & General, has just extended their contract with us for another year.
“The theatre has added a new and vibrant dimension to the entertainment industry. It has won numerous awards for theatre excellence and in recognition of our work and contribution. As probably SA’s most prolific producing theatre, close to 2 000 productions and concerts have been presented in the last 20 years.”
Freud. Picture: Supplied
As for how she curates shows for the theatre, she said: “I am constantly looking for new plays that are meaningful, provocative and entertaining at the same time. Producing is my joy and I am not deterred by the size of the theatre, nor the need to compromise on quality. Our stage is large for a small theatre and we have presented loads of dance groups and musical ensembles.
“However, while I approach many playwrights for new works, so many of our talented theatre fraternity come to me now with new plays and ideas. I travel to see as much local and international theatre as I can, also searching for appropriate works on the internet. I buy the rights, assemble casts, directors and the artistic teams and we publicise, advertise and market with a vengeance.”
And her highlights? “Being the recipient of the Naledi executive director’s award for outstanding contribution to SA theatre; being voted one of the top 5 women in leadership at a recent Absa Jewish Achievers’ Awards; winning a full house of Naledi awards for The Pirates of Penzance, and many other awards.”
As for upcoming productions she’s excited about, she says the witty international play, Freud’s Last Session, directed by Alan Swerdlow; The Old Man and the Sea, directed by Jenine Collocott; and a new season of The House of Truth, directed by Vanessa Cooke, are all highlights that are not to be missed.
* Daphne Kuhn is the owner, producer and artistic director of Theatre on the Square.