12/2/2019 9:49:48 AM

THEATRE ON THE SQUARE will temporarily suspend all current and forthcoming productions.


The Theatre on the Square turns to crowdfunding to keep afloat


A theatre that has entertained audiences for 27 years and created work for thousands of showbiz professionals has turned to crowdfunding to ensure that the show can go on.

Joburg’s popular Theatre on the Square has launched an appeal on Thundafund seeking to raise R2 million to stage a full reopening with a repertoire of  dramas, musicals, comedians and concerts. Anyone can support its ‘Keeping the Lights On’ campaign by donating from R1 upwards, or by opting for one of the reward packages that gives them a return on investment.

“Our theatre has brought joy, upliftment, entertainment and education to thousands of theatre lovers, always embracing diversity and challenging minds. It cannot be allowed to die,” says Daphne Kuhn, its founder, owner and artistic director.“Every day I get requests from artists, musicians, playwrights and directors asking when we’re reopening.”

Kuhn had already devised a fundraising campaign with a variety of benefits, and that has seen some money rolling in. But launching the appeal on ThundaFund allows people to donate instantly by just clicking on the website.

Crowdfunding works by allowing hundreds or thousands of people to pledge whatever amount they choose. If a tipping point is reached by a set date, the money is given to the campaign. If the tipping point isn’t reached, all the donations are reimbursed and the organiser gets nothing. Those rules ensure that people only end up contributing to ventures that are financially viable.

The theatre’s Keeping the Lights On campaign has set a tipping point of R300,000 by August 8. That would be enough to cover the first few months of reopening until the income from ticket sales carries it forward. But the dream goal of R2 million would ensure a full programme of high quality live entertainment for at least a year.

Its rewards packages start at R500 for individual membership, giving donors 50% discount on tickets for all shows produced by the theatre, plus invitations to special evenings, previews and discussions with the artists.

Sponsoring a seats costs R1,200 a year, with your name inscribed on a seat and discounted tickets. Life membership for R10,000 gives you two complimentary tickets to the shows and your name inscribed on a plaque. Corporate membership for R10,000 a year comes with 12 complimentary tickets a month, the company name inscribed on a plaque, and its logos in the theatre programmes.

The Theatre on the Square has been financially viable and artistically successful for 25 years, thanks to corporate sponsors and personal investments by Kuhn. But the Covid lockdown forced it to close, at the same time as seven years of corporate sponsorship from Auto & General came to an end.

More than 2,500 productions have been staged at this 200-seat theatre over the years. Kuhn and her team have sourced, financed and produced numerous new shows, giving many young playwrights and performers their first break. They have imported successful foreign plays, and hosted local musicians, comedians and children’s productions. Those shows have created work for thousands of actors, musicians, playwrights, directors, designers and technicians.

But it will now close permanently unless individual theatre-lovers and corporate sponsors come forward. The lockdown has already forced Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre into permanent closure, and Kuhn is afraid the Theatre on the Square will follow. “It’s a tragedy to see theatres closing, especially at this time when healing and upliftment is needed more than ever,” she says. “The arts are on the bottom of the priority list for financial support, but they’re an essential service that should be supported to keep South African culture alive.”

Kuhn hopes to reopen before the end of the  year, with all health protocols in place. The promised line-up includes local comedians Nik Rabinowitz, Loyiso Madinga and Ntosh Madlingozi; a new play by South African playwright Paul Slabolepszy; the international play Love and Money; a new musical revue; comedy sketches by local satirist Mike van Graan; and a new play starring Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland. Lunchtime classical music and jazz concerts will also make a welcome return.

“This theatre is part of the cultural life of Johannesburg and has created productions that have toured the world, with the careers of many well-known artists launched here,” Kuhn says. “Live theatre is absolutely magical and we cannot possibly lose this amazing art form.”

The theatre’s Keeping the Lights On campaign is at:






Thank you from Producer, Owner and Artistic Director, Daphne Kuhn


On behalf of the Theatre on the Square team, I would like to thank you, our devoted patrons, for all your generous support over the past 25 years. We hope that you are keeping well and surviving this dark pandemic period. It has been a particularly hard time this last year – the deadly Covid as affected us all, not to mention the temporary sad closure of our beloved Theatre on the Square.

During this uncertain time, we have had time to reflect on the amazing work we have done over the years – 2500 new productions and concerts. In fact, we have compiled a document celebrating 25 years of amazing theatre and culture with Theatre on the Square. I cannot begin to describe the magical memories and iconic moments we have shared as a thriving and developing theatre community in Johannesburg. In addition to this, we also ran a successful online campaign entitled Shared Stories which is a part of our We’ll Be Back campaign. Over 50 different artists have shared online performances from shows that were produced at the Theatre on the Square as well as special intimate theatre stories with our online followers. We also collaborated with a number of musicians and comedians for special live streamed performances. The theatre staff have all been paid since we temporarily closed our doors in March 2020, in addition to payments of rent, utilities and services. We are grateful to our landlords, Liberty Two Degrees, who have now given us rent relief as they eagerly await our reopening on the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.

I look forward to having you back to experience the joy of live entertainment! Also speaking to you personally when it is safe for us to return to our theatre’s planned productions and concerts. Until then, please accept my sincere gratitude for your dedication to sustain the Theatre on the Square as a Member, Patron or Sponsor.

Live theatre must be kept alive as it has from time immemorial. The ritual of “going to the theatre” collectively enriches our souls as it entertains, uplifts and educates. There is no better time than the present, for healing and uplifting!

To enable us to re-open, we shall need your support more than ever! Here’s to many more invigorating theatre times in the not-too-distant future! We shall keep you updated.

Take care and stay well!

Daphne Kuhn and theatre team



Due to the pandemic, Sandton’s precious, award-winning and independent THEATRE ON THE SQUARE on the Nelson Mandela Square, no longer has Corporate support. As with worldwide theatres, ticket sales sadly cannot suffice and in this last year there has been no income whatsoever. We now do not have a naming rights sponsor, nor the privilege of any governmental or provincial subsidy. 

However, the show is not over until the fat lady sings. We have devised a fundraising strategy to help keep the theatre venue alive.  This is not only for entertainment and the cultural upliftment of all, but almost more importantly, to keep our industry alive, for the benefit of our struggling artists, actors, directors, technicians, playwrights, musicians, dancers, choreographers and all creatives. We cannot possibly lose this amazing art form at our theatre, nor can we lose any more of our amazing South African talents and icons. Our audiences are longing to be back at our theatre, as are our students, actors, directors, musicians and staff. With the strictest of all health protocols in place and after many vaccine rollouts, we hope to re-open, mid 2021.

We have devised a fundraising programme for which your support would be invaluable for our continuity and our future. Without this we could face closure.

To allow the theatre to survive, we are responsible to our landlords and their lease, but have to bear the costs of huge rental and utilities, residents staff salaries, advertising and marketing costs - and the costs of the many productions of local and international plays, rights, artists, directors and designers fees, general running costs and maintenance of the theatre and its technical equipment and staff.










It will be divided into various supporting tiers.

Individual Membership of the Theatre Club

R500 per year

Great discounts on tickets for all our shows, personal notifications, invites to special evenings, previews (R50) and Q&A discussions.




Seat Sponsorship (200 seats)                                                      

R1,200.00 per year/per seat

Support the theatre and have your name inscribed on a small plaque on a theatre seat. You will also receive the benefits of Individual Theatre Membership.




Life Membership - Individuals

R10,000 (once off)

2 Complimentary tickets to every show produced by the theatre at a show time that is available and convenient. The names of Life Members will be inscribed on a board in the theatre foyer.




Corporate Membership

R10,000.00 per year

12 Complimentary tickets per month for corporate entertainment (average ticket price normally R100 – R150). Company names will be inscribed on a board in the theatre foyer and logos included in theatre programmes. Additional advertising available.




Support our Jazz Concert Programme with naming rights 

R160,000 per year

Support our jazz musicians. Partner with us and our successful ongoing monthly Sunday jazz concerts and receive naming rights. Your company will receive publicity, marketing, social media as well as advertising/logos in all programmes.




Supporting New South African Playwriting initiatives

R200,000 per year

Allow your company to become a part of an exciting playwriting initiative to promote the development of new South African works at the theatre.




Support our children’s & youth theatre as well as theatre-in-education initiatives, school festivals and matric set-work programmes for stage, video and film

R200,000 per year

Partner with us on our various educational initiatives planned and benefit from the naming rights offered for individual projects with many marketing opportunities. Benefit from Naming Rights for individual projects.




Support our weekly Classical lunch hour concert programme       

R240,000 per year     

Naming rights offered for this special ongoing project. Support our classical musicians and have your company’s name branded on all marketing for our weekly lunch hour concerts. Benefit from publicity, marketing, social media and advertising/logos on all music programmes. 48 concerts per year.




Corporate Sponsorship

R500,000 per year

Put your company on centre stage, in the heart of the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.

We offer you corporate entertainment for your clients and staff;
usage of the theatre for corporate events (conferences, team building or product launches) by arrangement;
naming rights for specific shows and concerts, by arrangement.
Your support will be acknowledged by means of a plaque in the theatre foyer and in all relevant advertising and publicity. This will bear witness of your generous support of the theatre.




Full Naming Rights/Sponsorship of the Theatre on the Square

R2,000,000 per year

We offer your company full naming rights of the theatre per year.

This will include optimum daily publicity (print, digital and electronic), branding in the theatre and on the Square, advertising and various marketing opportunities.

It will also include theatre tickets for corporate entertainment for staff and clients, usage of the theatre facility for special events. This valued high profile naming rights sponsorship will bear witness of your outstanding contribution to the arts in SA for the cultural upliftment of all. Most importantly to Theatre on the Square for its artists and technicians, by enabling the theatre to generate a multiplicity of work opportunities.




Exclusive Naming Rights Can Be Negotiated
to Exclude Other Sponsored Projects




The Theatre on the Square is at risk of permanently closing its doors if sponsorship is not secured soon. With government support sorely lacking, artists and musicians have ever fewer performance spaces. First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

A theatre that has brought more than 2,500 new shows to life in its 27 years of existence has launched a fundraising campaign to prevent its curtains from closing permanently.

Johannesburg’s Theatre on the Square in Nelson Mandela Square has created work for thousands of actors, musicians, designers and crew. It’s safer financially to bring already successful shows to the stage, but the theatre has provided a platform for new playwrights and performers to present untested works by funding their productions.

The venue has survived by means of corporate sponsorships and by draining the bank balance of its founder, producer, owner and artistic director, Daphne Kuhn. During a year of Covid-19 closure, staff have all been retained and paid, but it can only reopen if a fundraising campaign generates enough cash to cover the bills and pay artists who are desperate to perform again.

Kuhn has been hesitant to publicise funding campaign because of a concern that potential sponsors might fear that the theatre will fail. But this time she knows the Covid-19 lockdown will trigger its closure forever unless sponsorships are secured.

The silver bullet would be securing a new sponsor for the full naming rights at R2-million a year, with the company name displayed above the theatre and on advertising materials, free tickets for staff and clients, and use of the venue for corporate functions.

“I have been reluctant to do this because it’s a very emotional thing. But every day I get requests from artists, musicians, playwrights and directors asking when we’re reopening. The industry has been devastated and it hasn’t had the support the government’s stimulus package promised,” she said. “This theatre is part of the cultural life of Johannesburg and it’s created productions that have toured the world and launched the careers of many well-known artists. It’s probably been the most prolific theatre producer of plays in the country and it would be a huge loss to the city and the industry.”

Kuhn has sought funding from several companies, but budgets are tight and with so many organisations desperate for support, she fears that the plight of the theatre will be ignored.

Lockdown has already caused Cape Town’s high-profile The Fugard Theatre to close permanently after a year of no shows – they had also relied on private-sector support, chiefly from philanthropist Eric Abraham.

“It’s a tragedy to see theatres closing, especially at this time when healing and upliftment is needed more than ever,” Kuhn says. “It’s the saddest thing to see there will be fewer theatres, musicals, plays and concerts. The arts are on the bottom of the priority list for financial support, but they’re an essential service that should be supported by corporates to keep South African culture alive. Theatre entertains and educates and tells our stories with all the social, political and emotional ideas that form our diverse cultural tapestry,” she said.

With a seven-year sponsorship from insurance company Auto & General ending last year, Kuhn needs to raise at least R2-million a year through the new fundraising scheme. The monthly running costs are huge, with rent and salaries requiring R200,000 and utility bills R50,000.

The theatre was purpose-built by property developer Stocks & Stocks in 1997 so Kuhn could relocate to Sandton from her previous premises in Rosebank. The lease has now expired and the current landlord, Liberty Two Degrees, has agreed to waive the rent for the rest of the year if she renews it. That cuts the running costs, but still leaves utility bills and wages before anything is staged.

Producing a new play costs at least R500,000, even with a small cast, Kuhn says. That covers the rights, paying the director, artists, designers and technical crew during rehearsals and performances, and the cost of the set, costumes and marketing.

Despite the huge effort and investment, a show may only run for two or three weeks, making it hard to recoup the costs. There’s no money in touring, either, because the lack of a strong network of regional theatres means that it may only relocate to Cape Town before it closes. Few theatres, if any, can survive on ticket sales alone, and with Covid-19 compliance requiring auditoriums to be only half-full, ticket income will be slashed.

Critics who feel The Theatre on the Square is for an older, white, elite Sandton audience haven’t seen the lineups over the past few years, Kuhn says. “Our plays, musical events and comedy shows are representative of all of South Africa. We produce new plays that are relevant or uplifting, exciting and provocative. We have promoted the works of many South African writers who have been acknowledged with several awards.”

Often plays hold up a mirror to society and tackle social issues to challenge our thinking. The venue also stages lunchtime classical and jazz concerts, children’s theatre and school drama festivals, providing a space for new talent. The postponed 2020 line-up that she hopes to revive includes runs by local comedians Nik Rabinowitz, Loyiso Madinga and Ntosh Madlingozi; a new play by South African playwright Paul Slabolepszy and a collection of dark comedy sketches by satirist Mike van Graan.

As an independent commercial producer, Kuhn has no obligation to stage untested South African works, but she does so bravely, says Ismail Mahomed, former CEO of The Market Theatre and current director of the Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “Kuhn takes calculated risks to produce South African theatre, which draws open a curtain to the complex world of South African society, and she always succeeds at producing theatre which is wonderfully entertaining,” he says.

The theatre could reopen in July if money comes in from 10 new categories of sponsorship. Individual membership for R500 a year promises discounted tickets and invitations to special events. Sponsoring one of the 200 seats costs R1,200 a year, with your name inscribed on a seat and discounted tickets. Other categories include life membership, corporate sponsorship for R10,000 a year, and supporting the jazz or classical concerts, children’s theatre and playwriting projects.

The silver bullet would be securing a new sponsor for the full naming rights at R2-million a year, with the company name displayed above the theatre and on advertising materials, free tickets for staff and clients, and use of the venue for corporate functions.

If theatres fail to reopen, the devastation to the arts caused by Covid-19 will be exacerbated. Artists have been left starving by the lack of performing opportunities, coupled with the mishandling of the sector’s R300-million Presidential Employment Stimulus Package. That seemed the only source of income for many, and artists led by singer Sibongile Mngoma have held a sit-in at the National Arts Council of South Africa  offices after it reneged on funding pledged to about 600 approved applicants. Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has admitted the money was mismanaged, but it still hasn’t been forthcoming.

The Theatre on the Square can be contacted at or 083 377 4969. DM168

Lesley Stones






The Theatre on the Square, BASA AWARD WINNER 2014, has garnered many awards and nominations for theatre excellence. The theatre is a popular and unique venue. In its upmarket Nelson Mandela Square at Sandton City premises, it is certainly living up to its fine reputation.

Theatre producer, owner and artistic director, Daphne Kuhn, holds an MA Degree in Drama, and her special skills range from acting to directing, PR to producing.

The varied and acclaimed productions in this 200-seater adds a vibrant dimension to the entertainment industry and to the cultural enrichment of all. Over 1300 productions - including plays, musicals, lunch hour concerts and youth theatre have been presented in the last 22 years, in addition to numerous corporate events, concerts and industrial theatre.

Message from Owner/Producer Daphne Kuhn:
"My grateful appreciation to all the theatre patrons for their most wonderful support over the past 22 years. Enjoy another season of great theatre. We look forward to seeing you soon!"




The theatre has presented and produced this uplifting music programme for all, with leading local and international musicians for the last 13 years. It prides itself on being the only venue in Gauteng to host such regular weekly daytime concerts. Concerts take place every Friday at 1pm and unreserved tickets are available at the theatre from 12.30 on the day. The revenue from ticket sales goes to the artists. 






Should you wish to be on the Theatre on the Square mailing list, we shall be happy to keep you updated with theatre news and advance information. Please fill in the form below:

Corporate sponsorship of R12000 per annum in support of the theatre, will be acknowledged by means of an inscription in the theatre foyer and in all theatre programmes.

20 complimentary tickets per month will be made a available to your company. For details and special benefits to staff members and clients, call Daphne Kuhn on 011 883 8606 or 083 377 4969.




Tel: 0118838606 (Theatre Box Office) or 0861 915 8000 (Computicket) E-Mail:


Nelson Mandela Square (formerly Sandton Square) adjoins Sandton City - just off Rivonia Rd. Entrances to the Square and the parking garage are in West Street and 5th Street, Sandown. Click here to view Google Maps.


Tuesdays to Saturday, at 8:15pm

Saturdays at 6pm and 8:15pm

Show times may differ slightly - please contact the theatre to confirm show times - 011 883 8606

The ramped backstage entrance opens 15minutes before the show. 

Please ensure you are at the theatre 15 minutes before the show. 

Special show times can be arranged should you wish to book the whole theatre