The Federal Government and the private sector have been charged to take theatre entertainment seriously at both formal and informal levels of education because of its capacity to effect change in the society.

This charge was given recently in a paper, entitled, “Communication of HIV/AIDS as Critical Ill Health Using African Theatre Entertainment Education: The Examples of Lynn Dalrymple’s DramAidE in South Africa,” and presented by Nwagbo Pat Obi of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) in Abuja at the recently concluded 2016 Annual Conference of the African Theatre Association (AfTA).

According to Obi, entertainment education, as an aspect of theatre, can be used to communicate critical health conditions, like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF), Polio, Acute Respiratory Infections, Diarrhoea, Measles and Malaria in Africa, as well as create awareness, which could lead to change of attitude and behaviour towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs).

His words: “There is this fearsome attitude of the populace towards HIV/AIDS, hence people’s behaviour towards People Living With AIDS (PLWAs) is to stigmatize and sort of avoid them like plague in the society. Theatre can communicate through entertainment education that PLWAs should not be avoided and the behaviour of people could change towards them.”

Continuing, he said: “The place of theatre through the use of its entertainment to appeal to its audience is obvious. The impact of the songs, dances, and actions in a theatre production influences the reasoning and the knowledge of the members of audience in addition to creating certain awareness in them. This affects their attitudes towards a certain issue; hence theatre is a viable intervention instrument in communicating HIV/AIDS with a view to altering the perceptions both of the people and the government.”

He further maintained that though theatre can be seen as entertainment, it can go beyond fiction to intervene in reality, especially when it becomes AFTAPauthentically popular, because the popularity founded on theatre actively involves the audience as it follows the rhythm of the people’s daily lives through its communicative ability and its participatory approach to development.

To him, the popularity of theatre with its audience involvement makes it acceptable as the people’s theatre, because it deals with the issues and problems of the people, uses their cultural forms, challenges them to become engaged in changing their realities, and leaves the process of creativity and sharing in their own hands since the ideas in the performance belong to them, and it is easy for them to accept and identify with the characters and issues in the performances

While regretting the discriminatory attitude of the people towards PLWAs, Obi reiterated that theatre can use entertainment to educate people and cause a change, saying about 90 percent of diseases in Africa including HIV/AIDS could be prevented if effective communication aimed at empowerment of the local people with preventative facts is done.

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja