The Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, has noted that the theatre profession is yet to create good jobs for trained artists in Nigeria because trained theatre artists have not taken the profession seriously.
Dr. Ayakoroma, who stated this in his Keynote Lecture at the 2012 edition of the International Theatre Day (ITD), organized by the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), at the Cyprian Ekwensi Cultural Centre, FCT Council for Arts & Culture, Area 10, Garki-Abuja, bemoaned a situation where, unlike other professionals, theatre artists have not consciously tried to make a living out of the theatre.
He argued in a paper titled, Theatre Practice in Nigeria: To Be or Not To Be? that the question of Nigerian theatre practice being alive or dead depends on theatre artists, adding that once trained artists take the profession as if their lives depend on it, then they would be able to affect Nigerians through productions that teach and entertain the citizenry.
Continuing, he highlighted the taxonomy of theatre practice in Nigeria, such as elements of theatre, performance, the performers, the venue, the audience, and special qualities of the theatre which are lifelikeness, ephemeral, being objective, complex, psychological immediacy, and so on, even as he discussed theatre practice in Nigeria from Yoruba Travelling Theatres, Educational Theatres, Amateur Theatres, to Professional Theatres.
The ES acknowledged the contributions of many theatre outfits in Nigeria, which include, University Performing Companies like the Unibadan Performing Company (UPC), the University of Calabar Performing Company (UCPC), University of Port Harcourt Theatre, and private educational theatre initiatives like Wole Soyinka’s 1960 Masks, Bode Sowande’s Odu Themes, and Olu Obafemi’s Ajon Players.
Others are Nigerian Universities Theatre Arts Students Association’s (NUTASA) Nigerian Universities Theatre Arts Festival (NUTAF), the Samaru Theatre Project, Living Earth Nigeria Foundation (LENF), select Amateur Theatre Groups like Anansa Playhouse and Wizi Travelling Theatre, then in Contemporary Nigerian Professional Theatre Practice, where there are PEC Repertory Theatre, National Council for Arts & Culture and its National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), States Councils for Arts & Culture, NANTAP and its Festival of Nigerian Plays (FESTINA), National Theatre’s Open Theatre, Ajo Production Company, Jos Repertory Theatre (JRT), Arojah Royal Theatre, Dance Guild of Nigeria (GOND), The Crown Troupe, The Ijodee Dance Company and National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), among others.
Looking at the state of theatre practice in Nigeria, Dr. Ayakoroma asserted that: “Theatre is a slice of life; it is a reflection of our daily existence. We need to use the theatre’s unique characteristics to have determinate impact on the mindset of the Nigerians. Unlike other professionals, theatre artists have not consciously tried to make a living out of the theatre. A good number of theatres in Nigeria have very poor facilities, like seats for members of the audience, who pay to watch performances. This gives rise to situations where members of the audience are uncomfortable, or stand all through productions. Thus, they naturally express their discomfort by running side commentaries on shows, making unnecessary noise and disturbing the peace of the production. Naturally, such members of the audience and those who feel greatly disturbed will bid eternal farewell to the theatre after that type of experience. But it is possible to turn things around so that people would look forward to weekends of artistic entertainment.”
Earlier in their remarks, the National President and Chairman NANTAP Abuja, Gregory Odutayo and Chris Paul Otaigbe, respectively, expressed their appreciation over the celebration, thanking those who were present.
According to Odutayo, the ITD is a day to complain the problems of the artists to the world, hence NANTAP choosing Abuja, the federal capital as a befitting venue for 50th celebration of the event; while on his part, Otaigbe stated that it is the first time NANTAP Abuja is collaborating with national body to celebrate ITD, noting: “We are resolved as one to calm the nerve of Nigeria and direct the minds of Nigerians towards creating ideas that will bring back peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.”