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Sunday, November 3, 2013


(Greg Homann. Pic: Timmy Henny)

The National Arts Festival has named an unprecedented eight young South Africans winners of the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award, bringing to 125 the total number honoured since Standard Bank began sponsoring the Awards three decades ago.

The Award is made annually to young South African artists who are either on the threshold of national acclaim, or whose artistic excellence has enabled them to make international breakthroughs. “Celebrating excellence, innovation and a refined technical skill and artistry rests at the heart of the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards. Each of this year’s winners represent the vibrancy and sophistication with which South Africa’s artistic and cultural legacy continues to be enriched” said Festival Artistic Director, Ismail Mahomed.

Multi-talented theatre director and academic Greg Homann has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Theatre.

Greg Homann has directed an impressive array of work in varying styles and forms that include drama, comedy, musical theatre, musical revue, contemporary world-drama and new South African plays. Homann graduated from Wits with a BA in Dramatic Art and has an MA in Text and Performance Studies with distinction from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and King’s College London.

Mike van Graan’s Brothers in Blood was produced by The Market Theatre (2009) and Artscape (2012 & 2013) under Homann's direction and enjoyed seasons at theatres and festivals nationally. In 2011 Homann conceived, directed and designed a five-man version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance for The Theatre on the Square in association with the State Theatre. In 2012, he directed the world-premiere of Ariel Dorfman's play Delirium, produced by The Market Theatre and funded by the Ford Foundation in New York.

His professional theatre productions have been nominated for 34 awards and have won 9 Naledi Awards including for Best Cutting Edge Production (The Pirates of Penzance and Delirium), a Standard Bank Ovation Award (One-Woman Farce), and a Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award (Brothers in Blood).

In 2002, while still a student at Wits, Homann directed the new South African musical Sauer Street. In 2004, he co-produced Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has directed the South African adaptation of Lord of the Flies at The Market Theatre; the new South African comedy Chatter; the highly lauded dark comedy, Pterodactyls; the box-office hit, Tomfoolery at The Theatre on the Square; and Imagine which he created for illusionist Ilan Smith at the Joburg Theatre.

For The Wits School of Arts – where Homann lectured in South African theatre and taught directing, acting, and writing for seven and a half years – he directed A Clockwork Orange, The Crucible, Translations, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Paul Slabolepszy’s Saturday Night at the Palace, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In May 2012, his production of the musical revue, Forbidden Broadway, was presented with students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ). While at Wits he headed up the Writing and Directing programmes in the division of Dramatic Arts; where he taught courses in South African theatre, directing, comedy in performance, representational performance, and playwriting. On behalf of The Wits School of Arts, Homann managed the Tisch (New York University) Study Abroad Programme and was the portfolio holder for publicity and marketing for that school for two years.

As an actor, Homann has been seen in Pieter Toerien’s production of Around the World in 80 Days playing 18 different characters for which he was nominated for Best Break-through Performance. In 2007 he performed in It’s a Dad Thing at the Montecasino Theatre and the Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town. He also works as a voiceover artist.

“I think it is the need to learn and connect that keeps me motivated. In a rehearsal room we become part of a family for a short time, and the text or project always results in an opportunity to learn something about ourselves or our world. I love that. I am also driven by a desire to prove that my choice to create a career in the arts is a viable one and that preconceived ideas of being an arts practitioner (poor, struggling, a dreamer, ungrounded, etc.) are simply not true.” says Homann.

As an academic, his primary area of research is in contemporary South African theatre with an emphasis on post-apartheid plays. He is the editor of a collection of plays entitled At This Stage: Plays from post-apartheid South Africa (Wits University Press, 2009) which includes two of his essays on contemporary South African theatre. He is currently working on two international book publications that focus on South African theatre, drama and playwriting.

“I am astutely aware of the fraught, complicated, contradictory place we live; which at the same time is full of so much possibility, success, and hope; and also how I wish to contribute to the social and political conversations that confront and challenge us,” elaborates Homann. “I work hard, but very little I do for a living I wouldn’t do for love and no money.

“As a child I remember saying that I wanted to be a clown when I grew up. Although this has not become my career, my interest in comedy and performance is still what informs most of my work,” he explains. “I have always believed that theatre should challenge and entertain, and that these need not ever be separated. I wish to make people think while being emotionally engaged, whether that is through tears or laughter, or ideally both.

“The first year of high school was extremely difficult for me, but thanks to some wonderful teachers at Parktown Boys’, I found a community in the extracurricular Drama offering, which allowed me space to grow. Their passion for theatre nurtured my own interest in acting, art, and theatre.” Likewise, when he reconsidered his career path after an initial venture into architecture, and somewhat surprisingly found himself in the Drama Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Homann explains that he was mentored and taught by “some brilliant theatre specialists and practitioners”, each of whom inspired and challenged him in different ways.

“When I look at the amazing list of past winners, it is clear that Standard Bank has given South Africa an amazing gift by supporting and growing the profile of artists over the last 30 years. It is an honour to be coupled with such a celebrated group of individuals who have and continue to contribute to how we think of South Africa and ourselves as people,” says the 34 year old. “This has forced me into a new way of thinking - this is a moment of challenge and not a moment of comfort. I have come to understand that being an artist is a title that is earned through practicing your craft and through taking risks. I have spent a large part of the past ten years serving what other people wish to say, but this Award has made me think about what I wish to say about the world that we live in.

Although his first visit to the National Arts Festival was in the mid-90s as a schoolboy with his dad and stepmother, and he has since created two original works that have played at the Festival (one of which premiered to sold-out-houses at the Setkani/Encounter Festival in Brno in the Czech Republic in 2009), and presented on its stages as an actor, director and producer; he recalls that, “Perhaps oddly, my most memorable visit to Grahamstown was in 2002 as a student experiencing the joy of just seeing a mix of wonderful (and awful) work – loving the festivity and the diversity of what the National Arts Festival so brilliantly offers.”

In 2012 Homann directed two productions at the National Arts Festival. He is currently the Head of School of Live Performance at AFDA in Johannesburg. He joined AFDA in January of this year and is currently working towards growing and strengthening that higher education institution in the areas of stage acting, screen acting, and musical performance.