A critical biography of Rosalie van der Gucht : investigating her contribution to education in South Africa with special reference to speech and drama

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study attempts to explore the ways in which Rosalie Van der Gucht influenced and contributed to Speech and Drama education during the second half of this century in the Cape. The writer takes the view that although Van der Gucht was not particularly original in her work - dramatically, socially or politically - she had an impact which is still felt in the Cape Province and beyond, because of her outstanding qualities as a leader, teacher and play director; effected through her special skills as a communicator. The chosen form is a critical biography, which makes it possible to investigate the impact of Van der Gucht's initiatives within the contemporary context. Given that there are only a handful of books which deal with the theatre of this period in the Cape, and they contain few specific references to Van der Gucht; the chief sources for this topic were unpublished written material, and interviews with Van der Gucht's past students, colleagues, friends and relations. Of special importance were Van der Gucht's unsorted collection of papers (bequeathed to the Human Sciences Research Council), the Little Theatre Press Cutting books and the University of Cape Town Archives. In Chapter One the formative influence of her parents, her education, and her first working years in England prior to the Second World War are traced. The following six chapters cover, decade by decade, the period from 1942 to 1971 when Van der Gucht was at the University of Cape Town, training aspirant Speech and Drama teachers, actors, and students taking general Arts degrees. Her influence upon the teacher and actor training courses, including a scrutiny of curriculum developments, is examined; as is her membership of the South African Guild of Speech Teachers and her foundation and leadership of Theatre for Youth which aimed to reach young people beyond the University. Chapter 8 covers the years after her retirement from the University, when she launched upon a second career as a play director, and attempts to pinpoint the chief characteristics of her directing. Chapter 9 deals with the events leading to her death in 1985 - which shed new light on Van der Gucht as a person. The conclusions drawn from this study pertain to Van der Gucht's quality as a person and teacher. The writer takes the paradoxical view that this woman of British origin and education; was, first and foremost, an educator of the traditional kind found in Africa: an oral educator, who used oral material, verbal communication and social situations to inspire and direct those with whom she worked to greater efforts for the benefit of their society, themselves and the discipline of drama. The study is intended to be a useful historical resource for students of drama and the theatre in South Africa.

Bibliography: pages 279-292.