About the Lab & Drama school

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The Market Theatre Laboratory

About the Market Laboratory drama school

The Ramalao Makhene drama school offers an intensive practical two year course in theatre and performance. Our aim is to train young performers and theatre-makers to be professional, disciplined, and excellent in their craft. We are committed to providing opportunities for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who would not otherwise be able to study in this field, and we provide quality education and professional preparation to enable our students to compete in the highly competitive theatre and entertainment industries.

History of the Lab on its 25th year anniversary celebrations

It was August 1988 and I was in New York addressing potential donors as part of an American fundraising drive for the Market Theatre with some colleagues when we were invited to breakfast at the Rockefeller Foundation. This gave me the ideal opportunity to mention my long held desire to create a platform in South Africa for young people who had fallen through the cracks of Apartheid and who had been victims of Bantu education to find their voice to speak out about issues that concerned them and their communities – and to give them the skills to do this.  The Rockefeller Foundation instantly liked the idea and offered us the seed money to start such an institution.

I arrived back in South Africa and discussed this concept with the Market Theatre’s Artistic Director, the late Barney Simon, and the Managing Trustee, Mannie Manim.  Both were very excited to create a learning space for young people.

In 1989 we opened in Goch Street, under the freeway, with Mark Fleishman as our first administrator.  Thus the Market Laboratory was born with Barney Simon and myself as founding directors.

Barney and I structured the curriculum for the newly founded Drama School which consisted of basic theatre skills for marginalised aspirant actors.  We decided to use professional theatre practitioners as our tutors as they would impart not only the theoretical background but also give of their practical work experience.  I am very proud when I look at the acting fraternity today and see the number of our graduates working in the entertainment industry as actors, writers and directors.

The Laboratory immediately became the most interesting platform for young artists in this country, to meet, interact, engage and discuss issues affecting the arts industry and creative processes.

With the success of the Drama School the Laboratory initiated other programmes – each to meet a need in the community.  The next target was the young community theatre groups in desperate need of professional guidance to develop their embryonic works that dealt with the challenges faced by them and their own people.  The national Fieldwork programme has worked with hundreds of community groups over the years and its success is evident in the annual Community Theatre Festivals and Zwakala Festivals.  Even more encouraging is the number of new works emanating from these Festivals which have been presented on the stages of the Market Theatre and elsewhere in the country.  With the assistance of Professor Zakes Mda we started writing workshop through the Resident Project mentoring new, young playwrights and again have had several successful plays staged in professional venues.  As a result of these initiatives I can truly say that the Market Laboratory is indeed the crucible of new work and new ideas.

As the youth are such a vital part of our country, again with Zakes Mda’s help, the Laboratory developed a programme for young learners using drama to emphasise the dangers of Aids to our society while the Township Schools Festivals encouraged creative writing in higher primary and high school learners.

Until quite recently, the Laboratory was generously supported by SIDA through the Stockholms Statsteater.  My sincere thanks go to Christer Dahl and Christina Olssen for their enthusiastic support of the Laboratory’s programmes over many, many years.

As we celebrate 25 years of great service to our community I would like us to take a moment and pay tribute to my friend and longtime colleague, the late Barney Simon, without whom I would not have been able to realize my dream of the Market Laboratory.  I would also like to thank Vanessa Cooke, our previous administrator, who played a pivotal role in nurturing the relationship with our Swedish partners and for her commitment to the Laboratory.



Lab a seedbed for new South African plays

The Market Theatre Laboratory was the brainchild of Barney Simon, the Artistic Director and cofounder of the Market Theatre. The idea for the Lab, as we call it, was in response to the needs of the Community Theatre sector for skills training as well as being a seedbed for the creation of new South African plays.
Dr.John Kani, then the Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, partnered with Barney and raised seed money from the Rockefeller Foundation to set up the Lab. The Lab opened in October 1989 in a small warehouse under the highway in Goch Street Newtown. Mark Fleishman was the first co-ordinator. Showcases were held on Saturdays and Sundays and there were four fieldworkers who worked with the groups. Classes were held for professional actors and these classes evolved into the Lab’s full time Drama School.

The second co-ordinator Tale Motsepe initiated the Community Theatre Festival (known then as the Fieldworkers Festival). This festival became an annual event with groups coming from all the provinces.

The Market Theatre Foundation had never accepted any funding from the Apartheid government and when the Rockefeller grant came to an end we had to look for more funding from overseas as the new order was not yet in place. We turned to Sida – the Swedish International Development Agency. They gave us a grant for 1994. But it didn’t end there. The Lab and later the Market Theatre itself formed a long term partnership with Sida and the Stockholm’s Stadsteater. The partnership enabled the Lab to expand and grow and the exchange proved beneficial to both the Lab, the Market Theatre and the Stockholm’s Stadsteater.
The core work of the Lab has been and continues to be Fieldwork and the two Annual Festivals – the Community Theatre Festival and the Zwakala Festival, the Drama School and the Resident Project. Other projects that have been important through the years involved touring to schools. In the early days we responded to the needs of second language Matrics with the English set work – Shakespeare. We toured to rural schools with both Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. In 1995 we started touring to schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal with a Drama in Education project dealing with Aids and Child Abuse. This project went on for many years until we could no longer find the appropriate funding. We also performed in schools in Gauteng for the Robben Island Museum with the play The Island and the Apple Box.

The Lab has also hosted the Improvisation Company, Theatresports and many try outs of professional work.
The Lab has always relied on the commitment of professional theatre practitioners for teaching and fieldwork and is forever indebted to them for the contribution they have made to the training and development of actors, directors and writers in South Africa.

Vanessa Cooke

Market Laboratory launches a part-time drama programme

Applications are now open for the Market Theatre Laboratory’s new part-time performance and theatre skills programme. After receiving a huge number of applications for the full-time course, the Market Lab has decided to launch a new part-time training opportunity starting in February this year. The aim of this 6 session course is to provide an entry point into the performing arts for aspiring actors with little training or experience. The course will provide a comprehensive foundation in the basic skills and techniques of acting, introducing a new concept each week. The 6th and final class will be a showcase of some of the work achieved during the course, giving the students the opportunity to perform and get feedback on their progress. Students will receive a certificate confirming that they have successfully completed the course, and will have the option to continue the following term.
Click here for further information and application forms.


Applicants must prepare 2 items for performance at the audition should they be shortlisted. It is in the applicant’s best interest to prepare for the audition and to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.
Applicants are encouraged to attach any relevant information/ creative work for consideration. Such materials must be supplied with the knowledge that the Laboratory takes no responsibility for returning such materials.
Should the panel require the applicant to do a “call-back” – the applicant must make her/himself available on a date considered suitable for such a call-back.


The core philosophy of the programme is multi-disciplinary: learners are required to do all component classes including writing, stage management, directing, design, singing as well as acting. This 2 year full-time course is aimed at talented young people interested in a career in the theatre and performing arts industries. Classes are facilitated by highly skilled professionals and visiting artists. The class size for each year is approximately 12 to ensure maximum contact time in terms of teacher/student ratio.
Importantly the course is not suitable for individuals who merely wish to be presenters, extras or celebrities.

Administrative Information

Please supply:

1. 1 full length photograph
2. A completed Application Form
3. Certified copy of Matric Certificate
4. Certified copy of ID document
5. A one page (typed) example of creative writing no less than 250 words


Applications are advertised through the Market Theatre website annually from the 1st to 30th September.
Auditions for enrollment are held in December each year (dates TBA) and communication regarding auditions is limited to shortlisted candidates.

Enrollment Fees


Recruitment of Teachers

Highly skilled performing artists with no less than 5 years industry experience and 3 years teaching experience can submit their comprehensive CV’s to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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