By Larri Williams
The monumental assembly was convened at the National Theatre by the newly appointed Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria – Mr. Akin Adejuwon. It was an overwhelming success and well attended by many surviving practitioners, the likes of His Royal Highness Oba Sonuga, Peter Badejo MBE all the way from London, professors and practitioners of the performing arts, old and young.
The keynote address was most brilliantly articulated by Professor Sunday E. Ododo who was invited all the way from the University of Maiduguri and he did a grand job as he expressed in-depth analysis of the ills and needs of the industry.
The forum was brilliantly anchored by the in-house Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Shaibu Husseini, pioneer member of the National Troupe of Nigeria and now Public Relations & Marketing officer. The directors of the various departments – dance, drama, and music were all there; Representatives of the various institutions offering the performing arts were in attendance from Unilag, LASU, private theatre companies and all.
The new man saddled with the responsibility of the driving seat of the troupe, Mr. Akin Adejuwon himself an old hand in the industry was brought home from England to steer the troupe’s voyage as Artistic Director of the National Troupe through footlights to the Box Office. He pledged his axe to the task.
In my opinion, however, the key to the success and achievements envisaged depends on the financial support from the government. The troupe needs three times the amount doled out to run theatre productions to attract the interest and maintain the artistic talents. Also, to help encourage theatre tradition, achieve the standard of production and the sophistication of today’s art.
However, if the Ministry of Art can match President Jonathan’s generous financial offer and invest more interest in entertainment industry, this nation will soon see growth in the art market. We will also begin to see the difference in arts input into the general coffers, reduce unemployment queue, empower the youth, etc and drop oil into second position in our economy.
India, China, Japan and Italy can attest to that. Indeed America’s second highest income generating source is entertainment, theatre in particular. The stage has supplied materials for movies all along – great movies like Tobacco Road, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Sound of Music were all stage plays that ran for years on stage before becoming movies.
The American stage has grown from Broadway to off Broadway to off off Broadway and tickets are sold out regularly. One has to book for tickets way ahead to see most stage shows. “Agatha Christie’s Mouse-Trap” has run for over 60 years in England and tickets are still booked ahead to be able to watch it.
It’s about time the governments, state and federal start investing in building theatres to compete with oil wells. The National Theatre Troupe should as a duty endeavour to encourage theatre tradition in the country and make tourism viable. Without Art, Tourism becomes a desert walk and five-star hotels mere “slaughter houses”.
Build up the stage and entertainment will take a new dimension. When we eventually access Mr. President’s generous donation to the Arts, I say once again let’s build a hall of fame, give jobs to artists for the next five years – sculptors, painters, musicians, actors, writers, separate acting from theatre arts department etc and we will train actors professionally.
I have lectured in three Theatre Arts Departments of our own universities and I know that acting talents are wasting because they lack adequate training.
The Nigerian stage should be strongly supported. Stage is the cradle of entertainment and should therefore be supported to build the entertainment industry and help improve the film industry.