History of the Organisation
arepp:Theatre for Life began as The African Research and Educational Puppetry Programme Trust, which was founded in 1987 by Maishe Maponya, Oupa Mthimkulu, Ann Wanless and Gary Friedman as a community based educational trust, with the aim of using theatre and puppetry to provide social HIV and AIDS life-skills education to disadvantaged communities. arepp:Theatre for Life took to the road in 1988 after an eight month preparatory research period with its first long-term project Puppets Against AIDS, an educational puppet show about HIV and AIDS, with the aim of taking the HIV/AIDS message quite literally to the people in the street. At the time the approach was unique in the way that it travelled to the communities, and in the belief that simple dissemination of information about the disease was insufficient to bring the statistics under control.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, arepp:Theatre for Life’s work was pioneering in the field of human rights and HIV/AIDS education, working against the constraints and abuses of the apartheid system, towards a free and democratic ideal where all South Africans would be able to access their basic human right to information, sexual reproductive health, freedom of expression and most importantly, to informed choice. In 1994, arepp:Theatre for Life was at the forefront of democracy education with its widely televised multi-lingual, non-partisan voter-education campaign, Puppets For Democracy, which informed the populace about their voting rights and the processes of democracy in the lead-up to South Africa’s first democratic election.
arepp:Theatre for Life soon built a reputation for good quality, alternative supplementary education with significant, demonstrable impact, and the shows expanded in content and focus into schools and youth-focussed community organisations, incorporating interrelated issues of social concern, such as abuse and substance use, and focussing primarily on the broad area of sexuality life-skills education, in the home languages of the audience, developing self-efficacy for behaviour change.
arepp:Theatre for Life has since branched into life-skills and self-efficacy development for all age groups in schools, with four series’ of shows - the Look Before You Leap series (1994) aimed at 13 to 22 year olds, the About Us series (1995) aimed at the 10 to 13 year olds, and the No Monkey Business and Monkey Tales series’ (1996) for the 6 to 9 year olds and the 3 to 5 year olds respectively.
There are currently between 4 and 7 different shows encompassing, from a right-based perspective, the interconnected issues of identity, rights, relationships, discrimination, gender equality, homosexuality, pregnancy, peer pressure, sex, substance use, HIV/AIDS and STIs, violence, and physical and emotional abuse in each of the four age-group focuses. This allows an audience member to experience a different production every year of their school career, from pre-school to grade 12.
In addition, arepp:Theatre for Life develops and conducts training in Applied Theatre & Puppetry methods, Facilitation techniques, Sexuality and related issue training, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Organisational Development on request.
During the life of the organisation significant contracts (funding amounting to 20% or more of the annual expenditure) have been concluded with (in no particular order) the South African Department of Health HIV/AIDS directorate, The National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), The Interchurch Development Agency of the Netherlands (ICCO), Stop AIDS Now! (SAN!), ArtVenture, The Conference Workshop and Cultural Initiate Fund (CWCI), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Union (EU), Christian Aid, Oxfam Canada, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Comic Relief United Kingdom, Interfund, the Norwegian Students Association (SAIH) and UNICEF.