Why actors, actresses don’t marry early, by Tina Mba
Many people call her queen of the stage. This is in recognition of her vast experience as an actress both on stage and on screen. Tina Mba is not just a fantastic actress, but a resourceful and versatile one too.
Although she studied Computer Sciences in far away London, what made her an actress of repute are her patience and readiness to learn. She spent about four years understudying other actors and actresses.
Though a talented actress, Mba still believes in training before an artiste could attain perfection. With her experience over the years, the queen of the stage has received standing ovation for interpreting her roles convincingly. In fact, Mba often steals the show in most of plays she has featured. As a hardworking actress, she has the ability of featuring in about 30 plays in a year. She would equally have been a household name in the movie sector if she wanted.
But she is not given roles in the movies because she is always busy with stage play all the time. But she has made an impact through the television and radio mediums. The single mother of two further explained the attitude of artistes, noting that majority of them do not marry as at when due because of the pains of combining acting with raising of children.
She however, revealed that her two kids, are products of a relationship, not of marriage.
My name is Tina Mba. I hail from Eziagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. I am the first daughter as well as the first child in a family of seven children. My father is late and my mother is a strong woman who is devout Catholic. I have two kids, a daughter and a son. I am a single parent but I have a relationship. It is not as if I am really single. The issues are a product of a relationship, not of marriage. I have never been married in my life.
How I started
It all started in 1984. But before then, I had watched a play- Elechi Amadi's Isiburu, which was produced by Ihria Inakhimio. After watching the production, I made up my mind that I was going to be an actress. I started coming to the National Arts Theatre where I saw Bassey Effiong and his drama group, Ananse Play House. I kept coming not as a member but just to watch what they were doing and the way they did them. That was a kind of understudying that I went through. With time, I told myself that from what I have seen, actors and actresses are not well paid. Even at this, I made up my mind to do my first play, William Shakespeare's As you like it. To me, doing it was a risk. That was in 1989. We had good hands that acted in it; Okenedo Omokaro, Clifford Okoh, Kenneth Egbuna, Benson Odama, and the rest of them. We really had a good show. To me, that was the starting point. After this, it went on and on like that.
Having my babies/break in acting
I took a long break from acting to have my baby. I went to England to give birth to the baby. Later I came back to acting again. Since then I have been doing my best. While in England with my baby, I did not go into acting because I could not be attending to the baby and acting at the same time. At the same time too, I was in school. So I could not combine all these in addition to running my home and even the job I was doing.
I never thought I would make a fantastic actress initially, until events proved me wrong. This is because even in my secondary school days, I realised that any role I played in any play, people who watched me encouraged me. They would always tell me that I acted well and that I should keep it up. And in my place, if you are told to keep whatever you are doing up, it means you are really good at it. So, to some extent, looking back now and recalling how I have fared, I would say that it is possible that it was inborn in me. That is, I think I have a trait of it. All I needed was training to polish, solidify and consolidate this talent I have.
Artistes and marriage
I think the press has not actually helped the matter. The impression people have of artistes is not helping matters too. It is a product of the way artistes behave. You know we can be very careless. We think because of the kind of job we do, we are free people. It is really a mistake we make, thinking that people would understand us.
For instance, you see an artiste dressed in a pair of shorts and a scarf, people would certainly think she is mad. But they do not know she is expressing herself the way she is. My mum did not know when I started acting. At a point, she thought the profession was for layabouts. So, it is a problem caused by the society on one hand, and the artistes themselves on the other. Once artistes are able to remove irresponsibility from their profession and know that there is hierarchy, the perception will change. We should also know that there is an extent to which we should express ourselves. You cannot be going to negotiate for a loan or contract in a bank and as a lady you put on jeans. You see the artistes can do that. Then the women artistes, because of the nature of job where you can work into late hours, we hardly pay attention to ourselves, our relationships. You have to be very understanding for you to marry an artiste, whether male or female. We travel a lot and can stay for a month or more. A lot of people cannot stand these. So, you can now see why artistes do not get married on time.
It will surprise you to know that I did not actually study Theatre Arts. What I did in the school was Computer Science. So, you can see that I am very far away from the arts even though I am now a very dear member of the arts family. I studied in Cuban Polytechnic, England. But I want to say that even for you to act, you do not have to be in the academic environment to learn. It is like carpentry or singing. The thing is that you have to learn and train on the job.
If you are able to study it, fine. But even at that, you'd still have so much to learn. That is to say what any one gains by studying is a kind of consolidation, because studying for four years means a whole lot of time to gather much. Then as the person practises, he consolidates further. In my own case, I was trained on the job. I did not jump into it. I made sure I did not jump into acting. I had to act as an understudy for four years.
I cannot say a particular person has the credit or was instrumental in my rise in the theatre: I say this because I have worked with so many producers and directors. They are too numerous for me to name. But I want to specifically mention Bassey Effiong, because he was the one who was always ready and willing to nurture me. I can describe him as a teacher. In fact, it is not an understatement if I describe him as a great man. He is somebody who wants everybody around him, who is serious-minded, to learn properly. In fact, he is a great teacher. Effiong is no more in Lagos now. He is at present the Director of Cross River State Council for Arts and Culture.
The plays I have acted in
They are really many. I will try and name a few. Visit of Bishop Alaba, Love, Iphigenia Meets Ayelala, Asholante, Askari, Midnight Blackout, Midnight Hotel, Amaiba, Bishop Ajayi Crowther, and Merchant of Venice. In fact, there is no known playwright such as William Shakespeare, Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Ola Rotimi and others that I have not acted in his play.
Most challenging role
I have played many roles on stage. But the role of Yetunde in Ben Tomoloju's Iphigenia Meets Ayelala is, as at today, the most challenging role to me.
I do not really go out to canvass for roles in the movie industry. It is not because I have anything against the moviemakers. I believe what I am doing is enough. Honestly, I have so many jobs on stage. So, going out to look for roles in the home video, which so many people believe is the in-thing, is to create extra burden for myself. Another area where I make enough impact is the radio and television.
I have done quite a number of roles on television productions. In Living Next To You, I played the role of Furo. While in Izozo, I acted the role of Madam If Not. You are aware that Victor Eriabe had already produced Izozo as movie. It is really a good story that cautions on waywardness. It condemns it ourightly. When it begins to run as soap on television, it will really capture the viewers' interest and attention.
On radio, I may not be able to remember all the titles, but most of the time, I was with Inakhimio. The scripts are basically written for the development of women, the welfare of women, brutality against women's and all forms of injustice against women.
It is a fact that by United Nation's standard, the movie rewards more than the stage.
But what I believe in life is that whatever you are, you'll grow. Actually, we all have homes to run. In order to settle our problems, we need money. In fairness to the artistes, the industry is not doing enough justice to them. The actors have to fight for themselves, because the associations are not helping matters. If you see an actor running to the home video, do not blame him. Some of us would want fat payment while some may not. Maybe I belong to those who don't want that fat payment in the hope that things will get better in future
On many locations, you see that artistes pass the night in terrible conditions. Sometimes they are not given accommodation at all. Most times, welfare is as if you have to beg before you get. Yet it is a right for the artistes. I mean you took the artistes from their homes and you cannot feed them. To me, it makes no sense. In such a situation, if other artistes are gullible, I'll simply walk up to the producer or director and tell him what I need. I am obliged most of the time and if not attended to, I can simply pick up my bag and leave, because if anything happens to any artistes, the highest anybody can do is to observe a minute's silence.
The arts is part of everybody's daily activities. That is to say the artistes make everybody stay. There cannot be a function without an interlude of music, drama, jokes. Many young people come to me and say they want to act. I simply tell them to go for training. Go to school. It is a profession to pursue as a career. Then you can still join a playhouse to practise all the time. There you perform and grow. I do not believe in coming today and fading away the following day. Ideally, I strongly believe that an actor should do two jobs in a year. That would be able to sustain him. But because of what obtains here, one can do up to 30 jobs in a year. Above all, it is a great profession and if I have to live again, I would still be an actress.