Doug Hill was a Zimbabwean politician-cum theatre guru who founded Zimbabwe's third largest theatre, Charles Austin Theatre, in Masvingo in 1974 together with Jimmy Millar and Tony Weare. He died on 23 January 2021.
He was a former mayor and alderman of Fort Victoria, now Masvingo, and was honoured with the Freedom of the Municipality. He was also a former District Governor of the Rotary Club during the period when the District encompassed Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland and a region of South Africa.
With a career that began in Mutare, then Umtali, in the 1950s, Doug Hill from the onset of his theatre expeditions exhibited great ambition and instinct from staging his first production on a makeshift stage to being one of the cornerstones of Masvingo’s multi-award winning drama company, the Masvingo Drama Circle, now the Masvingo Theatre and Arts Club.
Charles Austin Theatre
Hill also advocated for the construction of the Charles Austin Theatre, Masvingo’s only theatre house, which was then officially opened in 1974. For over five decades, the name Doug Hill has been synonymous with the art of theatre in Masvingo.
Doug Hill is a name that rings a thunderous bell in the ear of anyone who knows the history of professional theatre in Zimbabwe. Hill was immortalised through a schools drama festival named after the towering Thespian.
“It is in honour of Doug Hill’s ever-growing legacy that the Charles Austin Theatre has decided to launch a School’s drama festival, which will be a competition for primary and high schools within and outside Masvingo,” said Charles Austin Theatre’s artistic director, Khetani Banda. As far as I am concerned, Doug Hill’s theatre work in Masvingo and even Zimbabwe can’t go unnoticed and unappreciated. If it wasn’t for the passion of this man, perhaps the Charles Austin Theatre wouldn’t be standing right now and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration that I probably wouldn’t have a theatre career since he was the one who mentored me when I was a young adult.”
Banda went on to reflect on the impact that Hill had on the careers of other theatre practitioners in Masvingo. Commenting on the honour, Doug Hill, who was 90 years old in 2017, said; “What I’m happiest for is the continuing work by the Charles Austin Theatre to discover and groom new theatre talent. Empires should not die with the Kings, they should continue with the young.”
The Doug Hill Schools Drama Festival was to be an annual event to be hosted at the Charles Austin Theatre.
He died on 23 January 2021.