On Theatre Day, ITI celebrates young, emerging artistes
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, its multibillion-dollar theatre industry almost ceased to exist. Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) brought live shows to an abrupt halt.
Productions did not stop completely but instead went online, showcasing the potential of modern technology to bring theatre to wider audiences despite a lack of traditional performance spaces or funding, especially in Africa.
However, while streaming served as a suitable stopgap, audiences arguably thrive on live entertainment, relishing the excitement and proximity offered by it.
The pandemic, no doubt, was a wake-up call for theatre practitioners to be conscious about how technology affects their lives.
Although they are already returning as physical distancing measures are relaxed, what has become clear is that the past two years have changed the way companies and performers approach their craft – and how performers relate to their audiences.
For many, the restrictions of the past years have been a stimulus for trying new things. Today, and days to come, many of the new things will be on show, as the world celebrates another theatre day.
Created by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), World Theatre Day is celebrated globally to remind ‘people of the great power that theatre can bring about.
ITI was created on the initiative of the first United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director-General, Sir Julian Huxley, and the playwright and novelist JB Priestly, in 1948, just after the Second World War, and at the beginning of the Cold War, when the Iron Curtain divided the East and the West.
The aim of the founders of ITI was to build an organisation that was aligned with UNESCO’s goals on culture, education and the arts, and which would focus its endeavours on improving the status of all members of the performing arts professions.
They envisaged an organisation that created platforms for international exchange and for engagement in the education of the performing arts, for beginners and professionals alike, as well as using the performing arts for mutual understanding and peace.
ITI has now developed into the world’s largest organisation for the performing arts, with more than 90 Centres spread across every continent.
The ITI’s goals are: To promote the international exchange of knowledge and practice in the domain of the performing arts; to stimulate the creation and increase cooperation among theatre people; to increase public awareness of the need to take artistic creation into consideration in the domain of development; to deepen mutual understanding and contribute to the consolidation of peace and friendship between peoples; to join in the defence of the ideals and aims of UNESCO, and to combat all forms of racism or social and political discrimination.
THIS year’s celebration will focus on the young, the next generation, emerging artistes, who have been a strong special focus of ITI in the recent past. Through this event, the institute offers the next generation of artists and art professionals a platform to exchange ideas and present themselves to the world.
From 1962, 60 significant theatre figures have contributed their thoughts on theatre, culture, and peace through WTD Messages. This year’s lot fell on Peter Sellars, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California (UCLA).
The opera, theatre and festival director, said, “we are living in an epic period in human history and the deep and consequential changes we are experiencing in human beings’ relations to themselves, to each other, and to nonhuman worlds are nearly beyond our abilities to grasp, to articulate, to speak of, and to express.”
He continued, “we are not living in the 24-hour news cycle, we are living at the edge of time. Newspapers and media are completely unequipped and unable to deal with what we are experiencing.
“Where is the language, what are the moves, and what are the images that might allow us to comprehend the deep shifts and ruptures that we are experiencing? And how can we convey the content of our lives right now not as reportage but experience?”
He said, “in a world overwhelmed by vast press campaigns, simulated experiences, ghastly prognostications, how can we reach beyond the endless repeating of numbers to experience the sanctity and infinity of a single life, a single ecosystem, a friendship, or the quality of light in a strange sky? Two years of COVID-19 have dimmed people’s senses, narrowed people’s lives, broken connections, and put us at a strange ground zero of human habitation.”
Sellers noted, “so many people are on edge. So much violence is flaring, irrationally or unexpectedly. So many established systems have been revealed as structures of ongoing cruelty.”
The festival director said: “This is a time for the deep refreshment of our minds, of our senses, of our imaginations, of our histories, and of our futures. Isolated people working alone cannot do this work. This is work that we need to do together. Theatre is the invitation to do this work together.”
In his message, President, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Israel Eboh fta, noted that the world is celebrating another Theatre Day is “because we are survivors of COVID-19 pandemic, survivors of the many economic, social and political battles that we confront on a daily basis.”
While paying tribute to theatre practitioners, who, in the last year, lost the battle and took their final exit from the stage of life, “Eboh said, “We must recognise and appreciate the enormity of our task. As theatre practitioners, our function must be to educate, inform and be the conscience of the society using our ability to tell the bluntest truth through entertainment.”
He enjoined practitioners to provide bankable moral values that guarantee a better tomorrow “in a nation that has today become morally bankrupt.”
He said, “for every theatre of war in the North East, South East, North Central, Afghanistan, Ukraine, we must provide a theatre of peace.”
According to the NANTAP president, “for every political flip flop that continues to take away our hopes, we must be strong enough to stop being the poster faces at their rallies, promoting their political incompetence and corruption. Our theatre must be the theatre of hope and truth that the nation desires. Our theatre must help shape and create a better Nigeria. Our theatre must help birth a new Nigeria that we will be proud to bequeath the next generation. We have the voice. We have the platform.”
HEADLINING events for this year’s celebration is ‘WTD Speeches, Advocacy and command performance of Restless, written by Yinka Folahan and directed by Tolu Fagbure. Performance time is 3:00 pm at the Marquee, National Theatre, Lagos, with support from TIGOLF Travels and Tours, Lagos Council for Arts and Culture and Society for Performing Arts of Nigeria (SPAN).
In Asaba, Delta State, the state chapter will present performances and award, with the state’s Commission for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Lawrence Ejiofor, billed to receive ‘Theatre and Entertainment Person of the Year’ award, largely inspired by the building of Leisure Park and Film Village, undertaken by the state government.
At 3.00 pm, at Model Theatre Studio, Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the focus will be on ‘Building Sustainable Communities’ and performances.
Also at the Pit Theatre, Dramatic Arts Department, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, the state chapter will host performance activities such as dance, drama performance, and lecture, with the theme ‘Theatre and the Challenges of Environmental Impact’. Prof. Wumi Raji will deliver this on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, with an interactive session between students and members of the legendary theatre group, ‘Ori Olokun’.
Tomorrow, March 28, the Wole Soyinka Arts Theatre, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, will see Mr. Gregory Muyiwa Odutayo fta, delivering a lecture on ‘The Performing Arts and a Depressed Economy. Odutayo is a past president of NANTAP. Taye Akande (Taye Currency) and Afeez Oyetoro (Saka), NANTAP Ambassadors 2022, will feature in the programme lineup.
In Benin City, the Edo State chapter of NANTAP will pay courtesy visits to the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Arts and Culture, Mrs. Iryn Omorogiuwa and a visit to some media houses and the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, led by NANTAP President, Mr. Eboh, where an award will be presented to the governor.
A ‘Walk for Life’ is also part of activities for the Edo State chapter at Sam Ogbemudia Stadium. The chapter is also collaborating with Edo Health Insurance Commission for ‘Keep Fit with EDOHIS’.
The chapter is collaborating with the Ministry of Arts and Culture for the Community Theatre programme at Uselu Market along Benin-Lagos Expressway, Benin City.
Activities for Edo State chapter will climax with the performance of Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki’s ‘Idia, the Epic of An African Queen’ at Wesley Hotel Hall, Benin.
There will be an award/gala night and the performance of Obaseki’s ‘Idia – the Epic of An African Queen’ at Sir Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub Sound Studio, Observer Newspaper Compound, Airport Road, Benin City.