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JOAN LITTLE (article first published : 2000-08-1)

The University of Natal’s drama and performance studies programme regrets to announce the death last week in Australia of Joan Little. Described by one of her former students as the 'pedagoga prima', Joan Little retired from the former speech and drama department in 1979 after 29 years of dedicated teaching at UND.

“She had joined the department in 1950, a year after its inauguration, as a part-time Speech tutor,” explains department head Professor Mervyn McMurtry. “Trained as a speech therapist, she became a national authority on the phonetic and linguistic aspects of the discipline. Her outstanding calibre as a teacher influenced generations of students, as did her artistry as a director of such memorable productions as Murder in the Cathedral, The Frogs, A Tale of Two Cities and The Importance of Being Earnest.”

On her retirement as Senior Lecturer, Professor Elizabeth Sneddon wrote of Joan Little: "In all her work she reveals a sense of quality, a wholeness of vision, and a richness of response to life which has made the experience of knowing her memorable for those whose education has been influenced by her."

With justification it can be said that Joan Little's impact is present in virtually every drama programme in the country, as her students became heads at every English-speaking institution in South Africa. She will also be remembered for her impact on the theatre profession.

The late Richard Haddon Haines, a South African actor who went on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, wrote of her: "She is simply one of the best teachers from whom I have been privileged to receive instruction, and she is a remarkable person. She had a deep love for those students fortunate to be selected to learn under her wise and perceptive tuition. As one of these students, I came to know and respect this warm lady. And as a professional actor, I came to appreciate and greatly value her carefully considered and loving guidance, and her wide experience. She is also one of the most astute critics of acting that I have encountered."




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