Entertainment of Friday, 12 February 2016
Times change. Trends change, too. Theatre, just like every other art, has evolved. In Ghana, theatre has evolved from a ‘lower-class’ entertainment to one that lately catches everyone’s attention; from lower class, through to the middle class and even to the highest class of people in society.
Gone are the days when theatre was for the unschooled, thus, graduates who studied in such fields had to look elsewhere for opportunities. Things have changed.
Theatre has gradually grown to become a strong force to reckon with in the entertainment space. Ghanaians love to watch movies. They love to go to the theatre, too.
However, the theatre industry in Ghana is still in the theatre. It needs healing. It is plagued with problems which indeed are a threat to it. We don’t seem to hear of many household names in this industry because these hurdles seem almost impossible to jump.
Contemporary theatre, and theatre in general, has a lot of benefits to offer society. Aside providing employment opportunities, it serves as a medium through which ills of this society can be ridiculed and corrected.
Broken marriages can be healed through theatre. Corruption can be tackled through theatre. We can have a better society courtesy theatre.
It also serves as a medium to de-stress after a hard day’s work. The humour, the dance, and the music are enough to liven one’s soul.
The means of communication between the cast and audience brings joy to the soul. The ambience that comes with theatre is a healing one on its own!
That notwithstanding, the ‘Goliaths’ that have plagued this industry may make all these benefits evaporate with the wind… soon.
The foremost challenge every theatre producer/playwright has in this nation of ours has to do with sponsorship. Tell you what, theatre is expensive. Very expensive!
One performance can gather over 60 people who all need to pay. Yes paid!
The estimate of over 60 is when one is even being ‘stingy’ or financially-prudent, thus, allowing others play double roles. Roles include cast (who may vary depending on the script) and crew.
The corporate world is careful in investing into theatre. But for a few names whohave been fortunate enough to have some corporate funding, most theatre/production houses can’t give off the best of output because the financial strength is just not there.
They, hence, work within their means resulting in a pretty bad output. Until theatre productions get as much attention as other entertainment avenues (like music) do get, I am afraid most productions will only remain as pieces of papers (scripts) sitting on the shelves of playwrights.
Tell you what, after going through the pain of mopping up some few cedis here and there to stage one’s play, one has to go through another hell of securing a venue. Trust me; there are only a few theatre-friendly venues in Ghana. And… most will cost you an arm and a leg. Yes, if possible your head, too!
You need about a whopping GH¢15,000 to book the National Theatre, for instance, for a night. That is for the space alone! You would need to pay even more for other miscellaneous services. As if your woes are not enough, the bureaucracy one has to go through to safely book such space can last forever. That space is no playground for ‘small boys’, to say the least.
A play is a product. It is a brand. It should be packaged well. It ought to be marketed on social media and everywhere. Until the playwright/producer perceives his/her play as a brand/product, there’s nothing much the public can do about it. Poor packaging makes poor patronage.
The branding should be on point. It should be presented to the public with a dash of suspense. Something should lure someone to watch it! I spend more time thinking about my play titles than any other thing. Every writer’s weapon is their title. It should be used timely and prudently.
Crafting a crafty title for your play is all part of the branding process. It gets people wondering with their thoughts wandering in all manner of places. The only means to satisfy their curiosity is to buy a ticket to watch it.
These, among many others, are the challenges we need to tackle to maximally benefit from the theatre industry. Our theatre industry is unwell. However, every Goliath can be killed. Every challenge can be solved. Nothing is impossible.
You’re invited to my play ‘I Want To Sue God!’ tomorrow, February 13, 2016 at Central Cafeteria, Legon. First show is 4 p.m. Second show is 7 p.m.
The writer is the Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, a writing company in Accra.