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The Naledi Awards system has for the past eleven years, been evolving and adapting to mark the status and standards of current theatre in Gauteng, and in the case of many productions, evaluated nationwide.

NALEDI AWARDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DAWN LINDBERG, summarises here the criteria for Naledi Eligibility and recognition. Her summary reflects the views and input of Naledi Directors, judges, and other interested parties in Theatre and the Media. She invites comment and debate to advance the cause Naledi represents - to recognize theatrical excellence and promote and motivate theatrical endeavour. Here is her informal outline of the guidelines for Naledi Awards.

  • the NALEDI'S are living and flexible; the criteria are never "cast in stone" we learn and develop and change each year..
  • the production should be staged for the first time during the year under review, or after a break of min 5 years. Change of cast in a production previously staged in that period cannot be judged....
  • the Production needs to be fully professional (ie: producer, director and performers) Student productions are not eligible
  • the production needs to be staged in a recognised Main-Stream theatre in Gauteng, including the Market Theatre: John Kani stage; Barney Simon; the Joburg Theatre, The Fringe, the People's Theatre, Auto & General Theatre on the Square, State Theatre: Opera; Drama; Arena; Momentum, National Children's Theatre and several other full-time venues for professional productions, Soweto Theatre and most Casinos having a dedicated full time theatre including the Teatro, the Pieter Toerien @ Montecasino, the Studio, the Lyric at Gold Reef City and Marcellus at Emperor's.
  • the Producers and cast need to be South African or brought to SA especially for the role being played, rehearsed and staged in SA; so "franchised musicals" are eligible if the producers and cast are SA and the Creative Team have directed and staged the work specially for SA.
  • the production needs to have been staged for a minimum of 2 weeks or 10 consecutive performances.
  • Naledi does not cover revue, cabaret, circus or stand-up. Sometimes, however, a production may be categorised as "cutting edge", see below.

1. Best Production of Musical: criteria: must have SA Producer/s and SA cast; can be "franchised " musical or SA Musical; in judging the "Best" we look for something fresh, exciting, innovative, stunning, overall outstanding staging, performances, book, music, sets, lxs and sound.....should, no must be: World Class!

2. Best New SA Script: promoting and applauding new South African work, this trophy is awarded to the play in the year's harvest, that has been the most stirring, compelling and enlightening package of outstanding South African theatrical endeavor embodying the most visually, emotionally and relevant elements of writing and production. It needs to have been staged for the first time in a Main- Stream Theatre in Gauteng during the year under review; new script, new production; ie: a new Play does not qualify unless it has been produced on a stage. Criteria: the play (or Musical) needs to be excellently written and crafted; should be about the SA experience in some way; should enlighten us about our SA characteristics; can be comedy, serious drama or musical; if the latter, the music needs to be of our "genre" and not just a pastiche of a Broadway Musical sound, It.needs to make us feel proud and to recognise that the work has legs and can be staged and have meaning anywhere....

3. Best Production of a Play: can be drama or comedy; SA or Classic; modern or Shakespeare....but all aspects of it should be fresh, lucid, and of outstanding memorable quality in performance, staging and direction. It should move and enlighten or amuse, but in some way "change" us and stay in the mind for a long time .

4. Best Cutting Edge: this can be mime, physical theatre, play, multi-media, large or small, but....the essential ingredient is that it pushes the envelope; pushes boundaries; speaks it's own "language"; is edgy, dangerous, fresh, original, "different", innovative....startling, rivetting......and doesn't quite "fit" a genre: is it a musical? Play? Dance? Mime? We don't know and we don't mind....but is it Art? Is it Theatre?....YES!

5. Best Director, Play or Musical: This accolade is awarded to the individual who has taken the words and/or lyrics 'off the page' and given them the most impressive life of the year, by bringing them to maximum enhancement and ingenious effect onto the proverbial 'empty space', in a creative, refreshing, engaging, pleasing and powerful way that is at once entertaining and mesmerizing. Is the piece lucid? Pacey? Well cast? Well staged? Does it interest us? Rivet us? Do we believe the characters? The blocking? The choices? Is the piece tight and taut? Well timed? Do we see a strong but subtle guiding hand on the helm? Answer "yes" and you've got it!

6. Best Lead Actor/Actress: does the performance rivet and mesmerise? Hold our attention? Does it push the technique and interpretation of the actor? Does he/she go the extra mile? Is the actor extended? Do they display excellent technique plus that extra MAGIC that keeps them in our minds and we CARE about the character portrayed?

7. Best Support Actor/Actress (cameo): clearly not a lead role but equally rivetting and stylish in performance and execution; the role does not "upstage" but the support given to the overall piece enhances and gives weight; we long for the character to re-appear....

8. Best performance in a Musical (male/female) : first; the performer needs to have outstanding technique; ie they should be brilliant singers! Then we look for more than that; we look for MAGIC! The performer should bring charisma, energy, vibe, interpretation of the character and role, meaning, understanding and stature; in other quality! We need to hold our breath!

9. Best Musical director/arranger/composer: This category embraces MUSIC: either an ORIGINAL SCORE, or arrangement; or a Musical Director conducting and delivering an existing score. . The winning MD or Arranger or composer must have exhibited strong technique and musical skills, but more than that, it has to be about INTEGRITY: does this musician understand the genre of the piece? The history ? The culture? We don't want pastiche! We don't want "cover versions" ; we need intricacy, deep awareness of the style of the piece, the relevance of the choice of instruments and arrangements; Broadway sounds don't always work for a SA piece.... The players should all play as an "ensemble" , with dynamic understanding of nuance and energy. We need to find our own unique "voice"

10. Best Set design: once again; bigger and more expensive is not necessarily best; what we need to look for is CREATIVE INTEGRITY: the set needs to support and enhance; it needs to fascinate and interpret the entire piece; it needs to have no more and no less than is required to give the setting; it needs balance and harmony and it needs to LOOK excellent, whether on a shoe string or million dollar budget. It needs TRUTH.

11. Best costume design: This award recognizes the year's most impressive design of costumes, in a production of any genre, that reflects the style, theme, colour, mood, setting, message, narrative, motif and intention of the theatrical experience, while embodying creativity, ingenuity and magical effect of fabric, dress, image and clothing as is required by the period, and style of the work. As in set design, the same criteria apply: budget is not the deciding factor (although this obviously helps) it's rather something creative, appropriate, exciting and honest....the costumes need to clad the performer in a way that enhances the character, they need to fit well and not be tacky (unless this is the intention) attention to detail is important....things like shoes and accessories can enhance or betray.....if in period, then much research needs to be done....

12. best lighting design: the placement and intensity and colour of the lighting can make or break a production; the lx needs to embrace and focus the attention of the audience; the lx need to give us the time of day, the mood the passage of time, the setting (sunshine or shade; day or night) it needs to be sensitive, artful; that of a painter......colouring the picture!

13. Best sound design: CAN WE HEAR? Is the sound clear and not too loud or muffled or distorted; no excuses these days with the technology at ....we can be fierce when it comes to technique here; screeches and cut outs and howling and wooliness is simply no longer acceptable! This category can also include special Sound Scapes and special Sound Effects that enhance a production and make it accessible from any seat.....

14. Best original choreography: once again,as with the MD/arranger, the movement and choreography has to have INTEGRITY and relevance to the period, style, genre and capabilities of the piece and dancers; we are not interested in "show off" dance whirls and techniques unless it works for the piece. However, we do need to feel uplifted and exhilarated, moved and excited and impressed! Originality is the key factor in the decision behind who receives this award. Choreography that is fresh, ground-breaking, breath-taking, astounding, while embracing and enhancing the elements of actor, stage, light, costume, music, set and narrative, is applauded, and awarded to the artist who, in the year, excelled in this discipline.

15. Best production for Children & Young Audiences: we have debated endlessly as to whether or not to include or drop this category, but have decided to keep it partly due to the excellence of some of the work being staged and partly because theatre for Children creates and builds new audiences for the future....however, we have also decided to only cover "new" work for children and not the re-staging of some of the best loved but oft seen traditional pieces for school holidays. We seek to encourage and applaud new South African work catering for children, this trophy is awarded to the production that has been the most visually exciting and creative for the young and the young at heart. So first and foremost the production needs to relate to kids, (and preferably adults as well) but it should also stand out as a top quality production: good acting, staging, sets costumes, sound etc....And it must keep young people fascinated and offer them a good time.. It should work for its intended target audiences.

16. Best Performance by a Newcomer/ Breakthrough. The winner must be a newcomer as a featured performer - a first time lead. The winner in this category is the best of those individuals who are new, as opposed to seasoned performers who have "been there … done that" before. Their performance should jump out as fresh, innovative and dynamic; once seen, never to be forgotten!

17. Best Community theatre : these are productions staged in rural areas or at special Community Theatre Festivals around Gauteng. Most often they are fully professional and enjoy long runs; but they are works by and for the community; they have "messages".They help educate as well as entertain. However, all basic criteria for a good piece of theatre have to be understood and executed: a play should be not too long; shouldn't drag, should be well performed with good technical support....and of course appeal to the target audience....

18. Life Time Achievement Award/s: these are given to thespians or Theatre Practitioners who have dedicated at least 30 years of their working lives to the pursuits of Professional theatre; most often an actor or performer, but also occasionally a backstage person or technician who has "made a difference" and who has been consistently OUTSTANDING to remain in our memories long after they retire or far Naledi has recognised over 55 Life Time Achievers.

19. World Impact Award: a Production, Producer, performer or writer who has taken SA Theatre to the World and made an impact that raises the bar of how SA theatre and practitioners are viewed, recognised and applauded.

20. the Executive Director's Award: this is given to a Theatre Management, Producer or Practitioner or company who has "stretched the limits" "pushed the envelope" changed, developed and grown SA Theatre Industry in some extraordinary and lasting way.

In summary: our judging panel is encouraged to look for the following criteria and if they all get a big fat “tick”, then they can move on to a personal preference:
  • Basic Technique: for whichever genre or category; simply: is it GOOD?
  • our South African VOICE and language: is the piece uniquely SA in some special way? We do NOT want “ordinary”, “carbon copies”, “pastiche”, ....
  • are we ENTERTAINED? RIVETTED? Moved, changed? (If we were bored or “lost” in any way, it’s a no-no)
  • did we want to talk about the piece? Think about it? See it again? Was it SPECIAL?
  • did it have MAGIC?
Dawn Lindberg
Executive Director - NALEDI THEATRE AWARDS

Tel : 011 880 7760 - Fax : 086 6737178 - Cell : 082 900 7527
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