Penelope Youngleson

Playwright and director

Penelope Youngleson is helping disabled children to enjoy and learn through the theatre, and also runs her own production company.

For the last three years she has taught at the Battswood Art Centre in Grassy Park in the Cape Flats, giving classes to more than 500 able-bodied and differently abled children every week.

This involved staging several productions with the children, including a mini-Shakespeare festival for deaf pupils. Her classes had a 100% pass rate despite some literacy and learning difficulties.

“My focus is very much on working with learners and using mentorship and performance interventions to curb further education and training dropout rates, and empower young women aged 15-18 to matriculate and gain access to tertiary learning systems,” she says.

Youngleson co-founded the Rust Co-Operative theatre company in Cape Town with Philip Rademeyer, and writes, directs, produces and designs new work through this company. She has written seven scripts so far, telling stories about and in praise of people from this country.

Rust Co-Operative focuses exclusively on South African stories and has presented nine shows at 21 festivals in three countries. Her productions have used four of the 11 official languages, as well as some dialects.

Some of the shows have been staged in mainstream theatres including Artscape and the Market Theatre.

Youngleson’s play Expectant won a Standard Bank Ovation award in 2013, and went to Amsterdam for the Afrovibes festival. Siembamba (co-written with Rademeyer) won a Silver Standard Bank Ovation award in 2014 and went to the Amsterdam Fringe festival, where it came second in the Best International Production Award.

In the Fleur du Cap awards of 2014 Youngleson was named Best New Director. Her shows Nat and Full Stops on Your Face have been selected for several festivals in the Western Cape. Nat has now received National Arts Council funding to tour Western Cape schools and be part of some workshops and interventions on violence and gender with at-risk youngsters.

She holds an MA in Theatre Making from the University of Cape Town and has been selected as a 2016 Bertha Scholar to pursue an MPhil in social innovation through the UCT Graduate School of Business.

“In my creative practice, I hope to continue making work and representing my company and country at arts festivals both in South Africa and abroad,” she says. — Lesley Stones

Twitter: @pennyyoungles