How National Theater Play Reading inspires budding playwrights – Ododo – New Telegraph

Since taking office as the Managing Director/CEO of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, the scholar and playwright, Professor Sunday Enessi Ododo, has initiated various programs aimed at reviving the nation’s cultural landmark. One of them is the reading session of national plays. In a conversation with New Telegraph, the professor of performance aesthetics and theater technology explains how the play reading program stimulates interest in writing and performing plays as well as the festival corns, his facequerade theory and other problems.

Recently, the third edition of the Play Reading Session was held at Obafemi Awolowo University (OUA), Ile-Ife, Osun State. How do you assess this event, in the future?

It reassured me that our decision to connect with the nooks and crannies of Nigerian society is a good decision. And bringing theater into the field where theater is studied, connecting with students who are the future of Nigerian theater makes me very excited. I can also see the enthusiasm and excitement in them. Even the participation of primary and secondary school students who came shows that we already have expectations, rising aspirations; and you can watch the latent talents evident in the performances of these youngsters. Thus, the gain from the public reading of the national theater goes beyond the reading itself. In addition to raising awareness of our existence and what we do, pupils, students, students also know that there is a future for the theater profession; there is a future for acting as a career, and that the training they receive at their various universities has a receiver somewhere in the public space. And given what we want to do with the playwright, getting into play publishing and introducing the winner is going to lift the spirits of those who want to dive into playwriting as a field of specialization in theatrical practice. That the Vice-Chancellor was there throughout, and he also proved to us that even though he’s a medical scientist, he’s very comfortable with culture and theatre. And that tells you that theater isn’t just for practitioners, it’s for all of humanity. What we do in theater is to interpret life, to project from our interpretations so that life is better for everyone. To that extent, everyone is involved.

Isn’t it possible to also involve the primary and secondary students concerned?

When you start a project, you have your own vision of what you want to do. In the process, it can cascade into other areas and expand. It opened our eyes. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. So once we’ve crystallized that initial plan, that’s an area to explore as well. But I know that the national troupe has a creative station for children that also takes care of the creativity of these young people. So what we are essentially looking for is writing. But the OAU Department of Dramatic Arts was very creative and imaginative in bringing these young people into the experience, which was very enjoyable. So in the future we will also recommend this protocol to other universities.

One of the questions that came up was what happens after reading?

Are there plans to publish the play as well as stage it? Where we are, in the theater, it is advised, and sincerely, with good intention and results, that a blank script is better released after the performance, because the performance has a life of its own. And the script is also in its own world. If scripts are written to be run, run them first so you can accumulate the experience of that performance into what is eventually released. This is part of the conditions that we gave to the screenwriters, and it will be easier for the reading of the plays since they are academic; and we go from one university to another. Therefore, the condition is well specified. Once a play is read, it is also the university’s responsibility to have it performed. It is the performance experience that the playwright uses to rework the script, also based on feedback from the public reading. That’s when we step in to publish. So far we’ve done three; and as you know, the universities have been on strike, it hasn’t been opened, and the VC has to be there to be able to put on the performances. It also slowed us down. So what we’re going to look at now, not to end without another play reading, have some scripts in the field already, so we can stage another one internally here to fill the space. So that when universities reopen, we continue where we left off.

On cooperation

We have been open to collaboration and support from people, creative industry outfits, artists, as it is through performances of their works that you can get to know them. The big names are already there, but we must encourage the emerging ones. So, since I arrived, we have collaborated with a number of theater groups to present their work here relatively inexpensively, providing venue and technical support. Crown Troupe of Africa has been there before, and we welcome all other groups. Challenges Every challenge that comes my way, I look at the positive side, and I also try to convert my challenges into gains. When the Bankers Committee came to start work on the redevelopment of the National Theatre, the idea was that we would close completely until the work was completed. It didn’t affect me as a CEO and as an artist. If you know this place in the last five years before I came and now, you will know that we have opened up space for many things. We do not rely on the venue to sell the venue for events; we now thrive on programming very well, and that has kept the theater alive.

Proposed National

Horns and Flutes Theater Festival As I told you, this is a festival that is very dear to us, and we want to use it to shed light on and also document the place of flutes and horns in their musical repertoire and our traditional commitments, even our social commitments. So what we have done so far is map these instruments in each of the cultural areas. But funding has been a problem. This is part of what we try to sell to Grand Oak Limited. So if our discussions go well, most likely by next year this festival will take place.

On Facequerade

It is an existing theory; it’s there for anyone who wants to try it. And it’s exciting for me to know that some Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) students are trying their hand at theory, leading to critical inquiry and all that. Over time, performance research and theory has continued, and what is essential for African performative ideology is to see how we can come up with our own performative theories, different from Euro-American’s own theories. But there are so many indigenous performances in Africa that are unique to us and that most of the time don’t fit into the literary and performative canon of the West. So it’s about continuous research and research into our own performative fields to see what we can reshape and sell to the world. Experimentation continued, even ritual theater also came. I also went to the cultural space of the Igbira people in Kogi State, and found something very unique and not very available for theatrical scholarship, performance understanding, and it is in the idiom of the masquerade.


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