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Thursday, June 20, 2013


(artSMart Editor Caroline Smart and Beverley Thomas, Director of the National English Literary Museum, peruse a minuscule selection of theprogrammes contained in the collection)

In June, 2012, some 22 storage boxes containing an extensive collection of theatre programmes and other valuable media items were delivered to the National English Literary Museum (NELM) in Grahamstown.
They represent all the theatre productions the late Maurice Kort attended in his lifetime. Before his untimely death in 2012, he was a regular reviewer for artSMart and his tribute can be found at
“This is indeed an incredible resource” says artSMart editor, Caroline Smart. “The five boxes I managed to record before the collection was sent to NELM indicated a mere tip of the iceberg. The programmes and newspaper cuttings in these files alone showed that Maurice had visited 112 theatres! I would like to record my gratitude to National Arts Festival Director, Ismail Mahomed, whose idea it was to approach NELM. I am sure that Maurice is beaming with pleasure from his spiritual plane!”
It appears that the first production Maurice Kort saw was Johnny Belinda in 1956 in Uitenhage presented by the Uitenhage Congregational Players!

The collection will now become known as The Maurice Jacob Kort Programme Collection and is on permanent loan to NELM from Maurice’s brother, Norman Kort, who lives in the United States.
NELM is currently handling the massive task of cataloguing this extensive collection.

“The collection was arranged and listed very carefully in alphabetical order and we have kept to his arrangement of the collection,” says Beverley Thomas, Director of NELM. “Maurice Kort was a theatre aficionado, The Mercury Durban Theatre Awards judge and critic, as well as a sometime actor and play reader. From an early age, he collected the programmes for every single theatre performance he attended. He also travelled to London and New York regularly to see the latest productions there. What makes the collection notable is that he recorded the date on which he attended each production as well. The earliest programmes in the collection seem to date from about 1955 and the latest, 2011, so it is truly a lifetime’s collection and an amazing record of one man’s pursuit of the entertainment offered by the theatre.
“Theatre programmes are an integral part of NELM’s growing collection of theatre material and are often consulted by researchers,” adds Thomas. “It is a most valuable addition to our holdings on theatre in South Africa.”
Once the process is complete and NELM's database is online, cataloguing information will be freely available to all.
More information from Beverley Thomas, Director of NELM, on or visit NELM’s new building will be South Africa’s first green museum and Grahamstown’s first green building.