How ‘A Taste of Theatre’ can help Nigerian theatre practice
An American and founder of A Taste of Theatre, Mr. Victor Gulley, had an interesting workshop session at the Lagos Theatre Festival 2017, organised by British Council Lagos. It was his first visit to Nigeria and he met with theatre producers at Freedom Park last Wednesday. The highly interactive session gave producers opportunity to share some of the challenges of theatre production in the country. Also, Gulley, who moderated the session, shared what obtains in America, especially at his Chicago, Illinois’ company, where he runs A Taste of Theatre, founded in 2012.
Among producers that attended the session were, Ifeoma Fafunwa, Wole Oguntokun, Joke Silva, Ojoma Ochai, Kenneth Uphopho, among others
Gulley explained that the A Taste of Theatre is a website App used for accessing theatre shows and more. “Using the App, you can find actors and venue to have your play, remind the cast of rehearsals, schedule auditions and market your play to the general public,” he added.
Aside these features, he said actors could also upload their headshot and bio, maintain their schedule and have a list of plays they have performed in it.
Gulley was impressed by the fact that Nollywood is number two in the world in movie production, and thought there could be more from where the movies were coming from.
According to him, “I wanted to make sure that we were capturing all the plays that were coming out of Nigeria because I just feel like there are so many great stories that need to be told. I wanted to come talk to the producers, get their stories recorded and share them with the rest of the world.”
The theatre producers identified lack of funds, generating income, cost of producing and running a show, and lack of good and big performance venues as some of the challenges facing Nigerian theatre. With these problems, the producers said they have resorted to collaboration to make things work. And in some cases, they said, goodwill has worked in their favour, especially when they get big sponsorships. Some said the way out was to produce low-cost productions to survive.
Thankfully, despite these challenges, the producers said they were happy about recent developments, where theatre performances were not necessarily done in theatres but anywhere, such as churches, restaurants, hotels and so on. These venues they said, cost almost nothing.
Contrary to Gulley’s App that does almost everything for the producers, the Nigerian producers have to work 10 times as much to stage a play, they explained, adding that they spend a lot of time on auditions and workshops to fish out the actors before the main rehearsals.
British Council Lagos Theatre Festival Director, Mr. Kenneth Uphopho noted, “Due to high cost of rehearsal venue, we have resorted to using homes and schools.”
On how the producers market the play to the public, they said they rely on social media, billboards and sometimes print, but rarely television because of lack of funds. “We sell tickets on line and at selected venues,” Uphopho added.
Gulley further said more content was being generated from Africa to America, which he said was inspiring people.
“I think the best way to help the Nigerian theatre is to let the whole world know that it exists, and for them to experience it,” he stressed.