By Melodie Veldhuizen
There is certainly no theatre lover in Pretoria and surrounding areas who has not yet experienced one or more performances in the cosy Pierneef theatre.
Jopie Koen, owner of the theatre tells us more about the existence and growth of the theatre, as well as the influence of the lockdown on theatre performances and the future vision and value of the performing arts.
“The Pierneef theatre, located in Villieria, Pretoria, on the grounds of the then Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd, which was renamed Rietondale High Schoolin 2019, brought its first performance to the stage in March 20003. Since that first performance, the theatre has grown from its infancy to a theatre that has become famous not only in Pretoria, but also countrywide among artists. Even outside the country’s borders, there are artists who have taken note of the theatre in the Moot and a number of foreign artists have already performed at Pierneef theatre.
Apart from the usual theatre productions, Pierneef theatre also prioritises children’s theatre as well as day concerts to cater for those who can no longer or do not want to go out at night. Every holiday, there are children’s theatre productions in the mornings and sometimes even on Saturdays outside the holidays. For the theatre, this is not only about entertaining the little ones, but also about cultivating our next generation of adult theatre goers.
Although well-known artists perform at the theatre, Pierneef theatre’s doors are also open to young artists at the beginning of their careers – many young artists who later became famous experienced his or her first performance on this stage. Well-known artists and groups that have performed here regularly over the years include Sandra Prinsloo, Wilna Snyman, Patrick Mynhardt, Carel Trichardt, Petru Wessels, Tobie Cronjé, Frank Opperman, Wilson Dunster, Elize Cawood, Marga van Rooy, Mathys Roets, Chris Chameleon, Rina Hugo, Manuel Escorcio, Christa Steyn, Jannie du Toit, Lucas Maree, Jannie Moolman, Anton Goosen, Dozi, Jan Blohm, Jak de Priester, Radio Kalahari Orkes, Ses Snare, Richard van der Westhuizen, Lizz Meiring, Johny Klein, Bobby van Jaarsveld – and the list continues. Most of the famous artists have already entertained audiences here on stage.
Every year, Pierneef theatre in collaboration with Cordis Trust presents a week where people with different forms of disabilities participate. In Spite Of, not only provides an opportunity for these people to appear on stage, but also serves as fundraising and raising awareness.”
How did you handle and overcome the lockdown and the associated challenges?
“The lockdown was an extremely difficult time for the theatre – as for all artists – and had an almost devastating effect. There was no income and of course it affected artists and myself on a deeply emotional level as well. Pierneef theatre would not have survived if it were not for an initiative started by Jannie du Toit through the establishment of a support fund. From this also flowed an online fundraising concert and it gave the theatre a bridge to continue. Here I must with great gratitude pay tribute to so many artists, friends, family and anonymous persons who contributed with open hearts and hands and thereby ensured the theatre’s survival. The theatre’s new website with an online platform also resulted from this. The theatre started offering online concerts and eventually there are now 31 online concerts available on the website.
And now you are allowed to perform live again. On the theatre’s website I read: “The theatre seats are packed, and the theatre’s spirit is back.” These words create hope for people who want to attend theatre performances, but this takes place in strict compliance with the Covid-19 measures (face masks are compulsory, temperatures are taken, hand sanitiser is available in the foyer and only a limited number of seats are available. Artists will also not be allowed to take pictures and sign CDs after the show.)
What are your future plans for the theatre?
“It is not possible to make any future plans except to continue to over performances on a smaller scale within the current limitations. This poses a number of challenges to both the theatre and artists, who must be willing to perform for significantly less money. One must also take into account, the audience’s reluctance to attend live performances.”
What is your opinion on the necessity of the performing arts?
“All aspects of the performing arts are the oxygen on which people survive – not only artists but also the public. Without it the whole world is poorer – not necessarily implying money, but in what nourishes your soul and spirit,” said Jopie and concluded with the following very true words: “In the theatre, the heart can understand even if the ear cannot hear and the eye cannot see.”
Jopie Koen, thank you for your immense contribution to keep the performing arts alive, to support artists and to feed the souls of theatre lovers.
For more information about the Pierneef theatre’s online productions and life performances, as well as requests to receive their monthly newsletter, contact Jopie Koen:
012 329 0709 or 072 460 5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the website: www.pierneefteater.com