New lease on life for the Alhambra Theatre

Anna Cox, The Star, reports on the exciting new developments at the iconic Alhambra Theatre in Doornfontein.

Curtain to rise again at historic Joburg theatre
THE STAR / 24 AUGUST 2017, 11:20AM / ANNA COX

The grand old dame of Doornfontein, the Alhambra Theatre, is set to be transformed into a much-needed arts and training centre.

The 1921 building, once famous for its theatre productions which drew people from across the country and which staged some of the best productions, has been lying empty for 20 years.

The building, which was owned by Pieter Toerien, has been sold to the Affordable Housing Company (Afhco) to be turned into a centre for arts learning and training.

Afhco has renovated many buildings in the Joburg CBD and, more recently, in Doornfontein. The company is also refurbishing the old, famous Jeppe Street post office into residential and retail space.

Afhco chief operating officer Renney Plit said this was a project close to his heart, so much so that he pledged some of his personal finances into purchasing and refurbishing the building.

Costs incurred are expected to be around R15million. The building, which has has three separate theatres and an office block, is on the corner of Beit and Sivewright streets, close to one of the University of Johannesburg campuses.

Plit said they conducted a research and the findings were that, of 10614 public high schools, only 7% offered art subjects such as music, visual and dramatic art, design and dance as a matric subjects. “In Gauteng, only 27% of high schools offer these art subjects.”

Plit said that was “a national crisis” as the arts were important in forming creative youngsters. “These figures mean that most matriculants are only exposed to ‘right answer’ subjects. These do not require creativity, innovation, independent and imaginative thinking. They do not contribute to pupil self-confidence and the ability to express themselves in social environments,” he added.

Plit gathered a team of professionals to form a hub to expose students to the arts. “We intend engaging with high-school students, as well as teachers, to develop and experience the art, and to take the experience and lessons learnt to the educational fields,” he added.

City of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba told Plit that the refurbishment of the Alhambra was “music to his ears”.

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Image: Under an African Sun 2014