BRING BACK STAGE SHOWS AND SAVE THE THEATRE
THE white elephant is getting back on its feet, thanks to the Doctor. The National Theatre is looking bright again, but, where are the shows?
It is not true that “there is nothing happening in theatre worth investing sweat and money on. No business can be more lucrative than the entertainment business, if the businessman can only find out a bit more about it. The sad and disappointing part of the situation is that the government does not see the importance of entertainment from the commercial angle.
Yes, it is a service to the people, but, we have gone beyond the era of art for art's sake when entertainment is seen merely as a distraction from 'more important business' of money making through salaries and trade profits.
If the government could structure show-business in such a way as to provide the infrastructure ready for performances, such as large enough auditorium to hold, at least, an average of three to five thousand people, then, productions will be encouraged and profits realized to keep business going.
Right now, there is no commercial theatre tradition in the country, which is a revelation of the fact that since independence, the nation dropped that aspect of culture which we had taken from our colonial masters. Although we had street corner theatre, village square theatre, theatre-in-the-compound, it was much later we developed into the proscenium theatre through universities.
It gradually caught on to community theatre, but, just as it was beginning to blossom into a tradition and culture of the society's elites, the big black festival of arts came in and created a climax that boiled up and simmered down into a ashes. Now we have no more theatre activities.
The few concerned with Theatre Arts practice, under the umbrella of NANTAP- theatre arts practitioners association- are merely warming seats in their office. How can you blame them? There are no organisations or companies fostering live theatre, there are no halls big enough to accommodate enough audience that will make ticket sales and the production viable.
Theatre Arts practitioners have waited several years to find a hall or auditorium large enough for proper commercial shows, since the Main Auditorium of the National Theatre developed a leakage. Every production requires hands, from carpenters to painters, make-up artists, lighting men (electricians) sound men, besides directors, producers, actors, actresses etc. All these people have to be paid.
The only available halls for live production on stage cost over N50,000 (fifty thousand naira including separate charges for lights. Producers are asked to pay for providing diesel for the generators. If such shows sell tickets at N200.00 each, a full house will only gross N120,000.00 which ensures a big loss.
This has been the situation and the certain way of killing theatre. No producer in his right senses will continue to generate losses just to keep theatre going.
As a result, TV has shut out the stage, and the industry has lost the training grounds for actors. Experimentation has become the order of the day for all corners to put up mediocre shows. The theatre arts practitioners association need to look into the situation so we can make certain that live theatre lives.
If theatre productions die, it will take with it the film industry because we cannot talk of films and film-making only by considering the technical aspects of cinematography. The quality of acting can only be ensured from proper stage training.
TV home video producers feel the pinch when they hire cameras at N10,000.00 per day and encounter actors that need ten 'takes' to get one good 'take, so they accept anything manageable for the story to be told and this will not get into the standard for international markets.
We have been fraternising with art long enough to be able to export good plays and educate the world about ourselves and our culture.
Only recently, we started exporting our dances but we have managed to go round the world- America, China, Australia, etc- showcasing our dances. The world is waiting to hear from us in words and songs. Late Chief Ogunde ran his theatre to a great height, but, only for home consumption because it was not in the language for international consumption. When shall we have a film industry that can measure up to the likes of European, American, Italian, Chinese, Indian commercial level?
We have the manpower but facilities and infrastructure are lacking. If only the government can pay more attention to the industry and provide these needs, we will not lose so much money, waste so much talent, time and culture exposition and recognition.
For the Nigerian Theatre to resurrect and pick up professional and commercial status, we need a strong government concern and involvement in restructuring and supporting the development of all its base.
Training of actors, administrators, business orientation, venues and security. It is not enough to cater for only the National Troupe and the personnel, what happens to the graduates of Theatre Arts from the several universities churning them out?
One of the neglected aspects of the industry is the Repertory Theatre Companies. These are the platforms from which practitioners spring to commercial level. Fresh graduates are not fit for professional and commercial ventures. They need grooming at Repertory Companies.
The National Theatre, as the arrowhead, perhaps, should be equipped and funded to be able to mobilise such companies to polish fresh graduates into professionalism, otherwise, amateurs will continue to flood our screens and the stage will remain dead. Only one National Troupe cannot keep Nigerian show business industry alive.