Sue Diepeveen: The Face Behind Drama Factory

Godfrey Johnson (GJ) sat down with one of South Africa's revered theatre practitioners, and that of course was the multi-talented Sue...

Godfrey Johnson (GJ) sat down with one of South Africa's revered theatre practitioners, and that of course was the multi-talented Sue Diepeveen (SD). 

Below is how the conversation with the performer, producer, director and proprietor of The Drama Factory went....
GJ: I have known you for a relatively short time but feel like I’ve known you for decades.

SD: I am sure we have!

GJ: Firstly, thanks for opening The Drama Factory. What in the world inspired you to open your own theatre? 

SD: Well, I have felt for a while that the Helderberg needed a space that was easily accessible to young actors and producers to present their work. I know that many people are nervous of travelling on the N2 to Cape Town to go and be entertained and I think this is a win-win for audiences and performers alike. Also, we have a thriving theatre community in the Helderberg and The Drama Factory is a perfect springboard for their work. My husband and I bought the building that we are in as an investment a few years ago and the business that it housed closed down, leaving it empty.  So I started holding private drama classes in there along with my colleague Chantal Van Der Hoven. She has a flair for d├ęcor and before long we had annexed the space.  We used to host our end of year showcases there and it was a natural progression to make the space a workable one for others. A few years ago my mom left me some cash when she died which I used to rig the space.  I think that The Drama Factory is a fitting tribute to her support of my choice of career. My folks always encouraged me and I hope that the space will help me to be a support to others who are needing a helping hand.

GJ: What was the first play you ever saw?

SD: I simply can’t remember but we used to all sit around and listen to lovely radio stories.  I loved getting to be a part of that as a young actress. I also remember participating in school concerts – the lovely feeling of getting our make-up done in rows, trying not to smudge lipstick and the feeling of excitement before it was your turn to perform.  I was so sad to be relegated to the part of a squeaky lizard instead of Alice In Wonderland in a school play, but I made damned sure that it was the best squeak possible.

GJ: You perform, produce and direct. How do you remain sane? 

SD: I am thrilled that you think I am… you forget teaching…I enjoy all aspects of my varied career and although it is busy, it is certainly never boring.  Sometimes they all mingle and that is a bit tricky in terms of time.  A great deal of time is spent managing The Drama Factory which is still my first priority at this time but it is a privilege to work in this industry with the most incredible actors.  I learn so much with every project that I undertake.  I cut my teeth on huge school productions which I wrote, produced and directed.  Picture 40 pupils all with lines and something meaningful to do, severe time constraints and raging pre-teen hormones egged on by helicopter parents …I think after that, anything is possible.

GJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in the arts? 

SD: Well, I feel that we should be encouraging more young people to take up a career in the arts and with so much fantastic drama in our High Schools at the moment I think we have a great future ahead of us in this regard.  I would encourage young people to really take time to know themselves and to observe the world around them.  I see a lot of kids who think acting is an easy way to make money but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication and I would say it would be good to shadow an actor for a few days and grill them about the times where work is scarce.  I would also encourage them to do some basic business courses to learn how to manage their finances.  Acting and other art forms, requires basic business knowledge – you are a business.


GJ: What projects are you working on at the moment?

SD: Currently on the acting side I am filming on a series and next week Paul Du Toit and I will be doing a run of Mike Van Graan’s, 'Two To Tango' at The Drama Factory.  We have had such fun with this piece and it was well received at both NAF2019 and Hilton Arts Festival. 
On the directing side we have just had a successful run of 'Your Perfect Life' which I directed for F Creations, this will be running in Cape Town at The Alexander Bar next week.  This was a lovely project in which the power girl team of Faeron Wheeler, Erika Marais & I bagged an Ovation Award at this year’s National Arts Festival. 
This week I am also delighted to be able to open a show at The Artscape. Sugardaddy Production’s 'Blueberry Toast' has been a huge amount of fun and it is super to move this deliciously dark comedy into a real theatre space. This is a great piece of theatre and we are pleased to have a chance to get it on the boards again. The actors have all settled into it nicely and that is where the magic lies.

GJ: Please name a few of your favourite writers?

SD: Gee GJ – that is a tough one.  I really gravitate towards female writers and Mary Laws’ 'Blueberry Toast' appeals to my sense of humour.  I adored Penny Youngleson’s 'Sillage' as well as Khanya Viljoen’s 'Raak'.  I feel that Klara Van Wyk’s 'You Suck' resonated so well with teens and that is a critical audience that we need to focus on. I am a huge fan of British humour and Victoria Wood was just my absolute best.  I have really enjoyed working on the layers in Mike Van Graan’s 'Two ToTango' which weaves the message into the humour.  His solo satire pieces are just clever, clever, clever!  I do read a heap of plays but sometimes things don’t translate on stage, I have never seen a Theresa Rebeck performed but love the writing style. This is probably the toughest question! 

GJ: How do you relax? 

SD: That’s a five letter word!  I love reading and if I get the chance that would be the “go to” activity. I also do the binge watching of great series.  I watch a lot of theatre which is a super way to relax.  Every now and then my kids drag me up a mountain or to the beach.  My husband is the king of the braai so a fire and a cold glass of chenin soothes the soul too I find.

GJ: Please give us a brief history of Sue?

SD: I am a JHB girl from the West Rand.  I loved drama at school and was fortunate enough to get a spot at The Performing Arts Workshop after school.  We had a great time there and learned a lot but sadly it had to close doors half way through my course.  Bess Finney and Bev Elgie picked up the slack after that and shortly afterwards I was really lucky to have the chance to travel overseas to train at The London Academy Of Performing Arts.  On my return home I did my L.T.C.L teachers and soon had a thriving studio in Somerset West.  I ploughed headlong into a teaching post at Somerset House.  Life was a blur of teaching, producing plays, running a studio and of course raising my three young children.  I returned to acting about ten years ago, more by accident than by design, but I finally had time to give it some attention and was so grateful to get another chance at “the business”.  My fantastic agent Samantha Bernhardi has been so encouraging and I have really enjoyed coming back without the intense angst of a young adult.  Of course, I have some of the kinks of an old adult now but that adds to the fun. 

GJ: Where can we find the programme and booking details for The Drama Factory?  

SD: Best to check our website www.thedramafactory.co.za as well as following us on Instagram or liking us on facebook.

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Urban Craft Magazine: Sue Diepeveen: The Face Behind Drama Factory
Sue Diepeveen: The Face Behind Drama Factory
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