By Prisca Sam-Duru
Popular On-Air-Personality, Wana Udobang best known by friends and fans as Miss Wana Wana, is a writer and poet. The gender activist who graduated from the University For The Creative Arts in England with a First Class in Journalism, was on the 6-man panel at the recent Playwrights workshop organised by the British Council Lagos, held in preparation for the Lagos Theatre Festival holding in 2016.
As a professional, Udobang advocates for newness in everything that relates to theatre productions and performance in the country. Most importantly, she insists that fresh voices are vital to championing the course of squaring up with the evolving theatre industry. She tells us more.
What was your job at the British Council Playwrights’ workshop?
I was a member of the panel. Basically, we ensured that the shortlisted stories went through a critique process, suggestions were given after which the playwrights went home with feedback. At the end, only 4 plays would be chosen and performed at the Lagos Theatre Festival. So, they just went through the process of development and that’s why we had a couple of theatre professionals on the panel to assist them fine tune their works for public performance.
Was the workshop really necessary since the playwrights are competing against each other?
Yes! It was absolutely necessary because we need to inject life into the industry. What we’ve seen so far, only tells us that young playwrights are thinking, in terms of themes and subjects to be explored and interrogated, that’s a beautiful thing. You can tell now that people’s voices are moving away from the typical things experienced in the past to more contemporary issues, in addition to looking at very contemporary characters as well.
Instead of the stereotypes, they are looking at hybrid identities of different characters and different individuals and the works they are doing as well as a lot of scenarios. The essence is to have works that can be staged numerous times. The playwrights are guided to recognise their strengths so that at the end, we have very fantastic pieces of works to showcase. This helps us with the data base of new writers in Nigeria.
Is there hope of birthing new crop of playwrights to carry on from where the established ones stop?
There has definitely been a creative renaissance from the past 6 or 7 years ago. Literature was a bit ahead in the game, also, visual arts as in photography was in the light and now, I think it is time for theatre to have its own shine. Lets have a new robust set of younger writers, newer plays and also attract newer audiences.
Lets not forget that its a contemporary thing as well because the things that go on, themes that people explore connect with people and you want to get the younger ones into theatre as well as people who are writing about different things. So, yes! there is a renaissance for theatre and play writing.
And also for us to say we have an archive of new plays that we can watch, enjoy and attract new set of audiences, we must redefine theatre in the country. In respect to the Lagos Theatre festival, this is why we are taking the festival to different places. We are going to UNILAG and other selected venues. It is an opportunity to attract different audiences.
Prof Yerima who was also on the panel complained during the workshop that some of the scripts where not written in theatre language, did you notice that too and what does this portray?
Prof is a theatre arts professor and that’s the beauty of having different professionals in the panel. So, I think Prof Yerima has what he is used to as theatre language. We the younger ones also have different ways of representing things in different climes, languages and their meanings and I think in life we are gradually navigating through language. So, for me I think its a good thing that people are able to express themselves in different languages.
As a Nigerian, when you travel out and you are able to speak a bit of Yoruba, Igbo, slang, pidgin and you mix them together, its a good thing and as life evolves, language changes. For me I love seeing fresh language in theatre. At the moment, if you go around the world, you have a lot of poetic languages used in works of art. There are beginning to be lots of poetic plays, especially in monologues. Its just about innovative language.