BWW Interview: Sue Diepeveen chats about the RE-OPENING of The Drama Factory
The Drama Factory in Somerset West has become something of an institution for patrons in the area. The theatre has been around for three years already, and has had some incredible talent treading the boards. In December 2019, owner Sue Diepeveen undertook a big move and has relocated her theatre to a bigger building just around the corner. Thursday 30 January marks the re-opening of this beautiful theatre in its new location. We are glad that Diepeveen could take some time out from the hectic renovations to chat to BoradwayWorld about her theatre and experiences.
BWW: Let's start off with - Tell us a bit about how The Drama Factory came into being?
Sue: Thank you so much for the interview! Years ago, my husband and I bought a warehouse with a view to using it for a business venture, which sadly didn't flourish, leaving us with a sad empty space and no one who wanted to buy a building. Myself and a colleague had been using a small part of the building to hold drama classes and we gradually annexed more and more space. We had a little stage for our drama class work and Grace Newton (Old Town Band) asked if she could use it to put on a show and so the Drama Factory was born. I rigged out the space, but as an actor I didn't really have a clue what I was doing - I learned fast!!!
BWW: Where did you get the name from?
Sue: My colleague Chantal Van Der Hoven named it so she could tell her students where to go. We figured that eventually we could create all kinds of shows and help others to do so too and of course, it is in a warehouse/factory so it would be a factory where drama was created. The name just stuck.
BWW: And what about your background? How did you find your way to owning and running a theatre?
Sue: I studied acting as a young woman and had the opportunity to learn my craft abroad. I had always thought that I would eventually teach. While I was expecting my first child, I completed my teachers diploma and started up a little drama school in Somerset West, which just grew and grew. In those days, I longed to be back on stage but there was no way, what with juggling three kids and teaching, but I always felt the need to have a space to create. We only have one theatre in the Somerset West area and it is a pretty busy venue, so I always thought that there was a need for an extra venue.
BWW: What is the show or shows you've most enjoyed having at The Drama Factory?
Sue: Oh wow - that is tough. It is about personal preference and sometimes the shows that do well are not necessarily my favourite, you know. I get a lot of joy from seeing audiences enjoy a show. I have had so many lovely shows in the last three years. Klara Van Wyk's You Suck, Penny Youngleson's Sillage, James Cairnes in Dirt, The Island with Luntu Mazisa and Siya Mayola, Aaron McIllroy in ADHD, and Daniel Richards in the Mike Van Graan satires, Off Beat Broadway would be some that jump out. Loved your Complete Works* too! But we have really excellent stuff - great comedy and improv shows and a heap of really fantastic music and while I appreciate the musical mastery of the tribute shows, I really love the homegrown stuff like Lisa Mynhardt, Old Town Band, Kirsten Adams and Emma Van Heyn. It is impossible to single out any favourites - when I look at what I have listed, then I remember another 50 I could mention - I think it would be fairer to say that in the last 3 years I have only had about 6 shows that really were terrible!
BWW: *The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was the first production I was lucky enough to perform at The Drama Factory. Glad we made the cut for your list! It was a very special experience, performing in your theatre.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you've faced having your own theatre?
Sue: Well it is a challenge finding high-quality work to present and then to find the audiences to come. There is so much that still needs to be done in terms of audience development. It is difficult to offer a balance of pure entertainment and then something for the more discerning audience members. We also try hard to offer space to new theatre makers and it is sad that they are not as supported as we would like. I am very grateful to other theatre owners for help and encouragement - live arts take a beating with Netflix and Showmax. I'm also grateful for a good booking system, Masterpenny has made our process so easy for our audiences to book.
BWW: You just moved around the corner into a new space. What prompted this?
Sue: Our neighbour has noisy manufacturing machinery, which he has to now run 24/7, which is obviously an issue for us. We took a bit of time to see where we could move to, and really, our new building came as a bit of a blessing - our patrons are so happy in a safe environment with plenty of secure parking and our central location makes it easy to attend. Our theatre angels made it possible for us to stay close to where we were already established.
Our new space has allowed for a bigger stage, which opens more possibilities for us in terms of what we can host - so it was a gentle push in the right direction really.
BWW: Now that the new space is just about ready, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Sue: We are super excited about the new lighting rig and the fact that our stage is now really large, which allows for bigger productions. Our foyer area will also be light and airy, which I think will appeal to our patrons... but at this point... I am just looking forward to getting on top of the dust.
BWW: And what can audiences expect on stage and in the new space?
Sue: We are trying hard to retain our cosy vibe and the personal touch that we have become known for. The aim continues to be that we will offer great, affordable entertainment as well as a platform for new work and showcasing of new talent.
BWW: What is your process for selecting productions for The Drama Factory? And how does someone apply?
Sue: Our website has a tab where anyone can send in an application form. Once we receive it, we go through it carefully and try to fit it into our programme. It is a delicate balance and we can't always offer a space but we do try. We are looking at using quieter days to do showcases of new talent.
BWW: When are we going to see you treading the boards of your new theatre?
Sue: Oh boy... I loved every second of Two To Tango with Paul Du Toit last year but being on stage is a huge commitment as well as a privilege. I feel strongly that whatever we produce as The Drama Factory needs to be of a very high quality, so that does not necessarily involve me as a cast member or a director. Having said all that, I am busy reworking my one-woman show So, You Want To Be A Trophy Wife? And we will see if it is good enough to showcase at The Drama Factory.
BWW: I'm quite sure your one-woman show will be good enough! And your audiences will love seeing you up on stage again.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Sue: This can be a lonely journey but I am blessed to have made good friends along the way, fellow actors and directors, musicians, technical advisors, FOH teams and most of all lovely patrons. I think the Drama Factory patrons give the very best hugs that money can buy.
Photo credit: Supplied
The Drama Factory opens in their new location on Thursday 30 January 2020. Visit their website to see what's on: https://www.thedramafactory.co.za/