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HEXAGON ANNIVERSARY (article first published : 2002-11-11)

On the evening of October 26, the Hexagon Theatre in Pietermaritzburg was filled with an invited crowd of students, former students, Drama Department staff and former staff, performers and various friends of the Hex to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the theatre complex.

In 1977, Dennis Schauffer, who was in the audience at the anniversary bash, directed a production of William Wycherly's The Country Wife to open the theatre. In that first year a theatre staff of six saw five productions onto the stage; in 2002, with a staff of four headed by theatre director Peter Mitchell, the Hexagon will see 37 shows being staged.

Mitchell, who has been part of the theatre for 22 years, was unashamed that the anniversary event was to be self-indulgent. Everyone was there to celebrate a success. Both as an integral part of the university's Drama Studies department and as a busy venue for commercial theatre, the Hex is a well established part of Pietermaritzburg life and the birthday audience was treated to a nostalgia trip, including video clips of various Hexagon productions from the last 25 years - complemented by displays of photographs in the foyer and recording studio.

The theatre's outreach project, the Y2Kids company, performed, along with the University Madrigal Singers, local poets, current students, singers and actors including award-winning playwright Greig Coetzee, whose first appearance on a public stage was as a skinny first-year student wearing a foam fat suit in a production of Salad Days.

Professor Hazel Barnes, the head of the Drama Studies department and the only current staff member who was there when the curtain first went up, welcomed the audience and handled the serious side of the evening, praising the theatre as a communal art form, coming from co-operation to present an interpretation of the human condition. And, in the search for a common understanding and mutual respect, she hailed the theatre as being as necessary as sport. No-one disagreed - and then it was on with the fun and into the second quarter-century. - Margaret von Klemperer (Arts Editor, Natal Witness)




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