The National Theatre Organisation (NTO) was a state funded institution, which was founded to promote and produce Afrikaans and English theatre in South Africa. The organisation was developed as a resolution to the growing concerns brought up by some individuals as well as organisations that had expressed the need for the state to intervene in the structuring and organisation of theatre and art production in South Africa.

The founding of the National Theatre was announced as a preliminary experiment on 21 June 1947, however the announcement of the board members resulted in a public outcry from the Federation of Amateur Theatrical Societies of South Africa (FATSSA). FATSSA refused to be managed by an organisation that they described as amateur. This led to the inclusion of a more ”professional” set of sub-committee members with the addition of Leonite Segan and Andre Huguenot, who joined Petrus Philippus Benjamin Breytenbach. They eventually became the controlling body of the organisation.

Work on productions started in 1947 with the art directors going on a tour to garner support for the organisation as well as search for talent.  The first production would go on stage a year later.

The NTO took up office in the old Marais Building in Sunnyside, Pretoria, with the intention to convert it into a National Theatre. It was officially opened as the head office on 8 Feb, but as time went by, plans to convert it into a theatre failed to materialise.

The NTO saw its demise when brewing tensions between local government in the Northern and the Southern parts of the country came to a head in the 1960s. Coupled with financial problems and rebellion by artists as well as the many political tensions in the country at the time, characterised by horrific events such as the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, the organisation had no choice but to close.


In 1961 the De Bruyn Committee, which was instituted to investigate the financial difficulties of the NTO, recommended its disbandment in favour of four provincial performing arts councils. As a result the organisation disbanded in June of 1962 and in 1963 the new system was put in place.

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