The Windybrow Theatre
The Windybrow Theatre was originally a family home, built in 1896 by mining engineer Theodore Reunert. Over the years, the theatre has served as a nursing home and a cultural centre. Despite falling into disrepair, it was declared a national monument in 1996.
The Windybrow Theatre, with its fanciful turrets and green and white timber façade, typifies the Victorian architectural style of Johannesburg at the end of the 19th century. The Randlords, wealthy entrepreneurs who controlled the diamond and gold mining industries, built exuberant and extravagant mansions, of which the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow is a fine example.
The Windybrow Heritage House became a theatre in the late 1980s. Despite renovations in 1993 and 1998 to improve facilities, as the neighbouring suburbs of Hillbrow and New Doornfontein degenerated, so the theatre struggled financially.
In 2005, the Department of Arts and Culture declared the Windybrow Theatre a cultural institution and began a restructuring process that would enable the theatre to become a sustainable entity. The new Windybrow Theatre was officially re-launched on 4 May 2006.
Today, the theatre is better known as the Windybrow Centre for the Arts. The primary focus of the theatre is to facilitate cultural and creative exchanges between South African theatre practitioners and those from other parts of Africa.
At present, the Windybrow Theatre consists of 3 performance spaces: the Main theatre (250 seats), the Small theatre (60 seats), and a tiny 20-seat auditorium. It also has 2 rehearsal rooms. The drawing room of the original house has been converted into a pub. Another room has been converted into a coffee shop.
The Windybrow Centre for the Arts regularly hosts new stage productions. In addition, the theatre focuses on developing burgeoning talent through workshops while the Windybrow Children's Theatre offers free community programmes to encourage children from the surrounding low-income areas to become involved in the dramatic arts.
Because of its architectural and cultural significance, the Windybrow Theatre is to be renovated again and will soon become the focal point of a new cultural precinct, sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture.
Three buildings adjacent to the theatre will be revamped and several streets around the theatre will become pedestrian walkways. Once completed, the Windybrow Theatre will become even more of an asset to this historic corner of Johannesburg.