The Market Theatre was founded in 1976 in Johannesburg by Mannie Manim and Barney Simon. Now based in the center of the Newtwon Cultural Precinct, The Market Theatre was first established on Johannesburg’s Old Indian Fruit Market which closed down in 1973 after 60 years. The Market Theatre won the bid for the front section of the Old Market and began establishing their new home and performed their first formal production on the 21st June, 1976.

Operations of the Market Theatre was run solely on self-raised funds and donations from the private sector as they didn’t receive state funding until after the demise of the apartheid regime in the 1990’s. Due to the fact that the Market Theatre ran as a non-racially biased theatre, which at the time, was against the laws of the country, it was recognized by the government and was therefore not granted any funding.

The Market Theatre Lab also known as ‘The Lab’, was established in 1989 as a training facility that offered training in basic theatre and performance skills and ran as part of the Market Theatre. The Lab still operates to this day and is based at The Bus Factory in Newtown.

The Market Theatre became known as the ‘voice to the voiceless’ in confronting the struggle of apartheid and believed in the notion of societal change through culture and truth. As the theatre’s mission is to “create an authentic South African cultural experience which is committed to providing the highest level of artistic excellence in all aspects of the performing and visual arts in which the education and development of a diverse community of artists, audiences and technicians is assured”.

In 1995 the theatre received the American Jujamcyn Award and became internationally recognized as South Africa’s “Theatre of Struggle”. The Market Theatre not only pushed the confines of censorship in the country at the time, but they intently focused on artistic excellence which has won them over 21 international and over 300 South African Theatre awards up to date.

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary this year, The Market Theatre has progressed into a cultural hub for a range of arts such as theatre, dance and music. It has become a home for new, exciting and creative works while remaining true to telling authentic South African stories.

The Market Theatre strives on celebrating the past but also continues to look forward to create theatre that is challenging, entertaining and relevant, which plays a huge role both culturally and politically in the 21st Century South Africa. With plays such as Woza Albert, Asinamali, Bopha, Sophiatown, Born in RSA and Black Dog, the Market Theatre is celebrated as a theatre that has put anti-apartheid works at the forefront, giving them a rich cultural history.

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