THE 7th Jos Festival of Theatre (JFT) opens today with Wale Ogunyemi’s epic play, Queen Amina of Zazzau, taking centrestage.
Organised by the Jos Repertory Theatre (JRT) since inception in 2004, JFT is the longest surviving independent theatre festival in the country. It has grown in importance and significance, taking into consideration the new plays, new writers and new directors that have been thrown up.
Due to the state of insecurity in the city, the 2010 and 2011 editions couldn’t hold, but JRT continued to stage plays in cities across the country. Last year, after the opening show, bomb rocked the city of Jos, which led to scaling down the events.
According to the Festival Director, Jude-Patrick Oteh, the theme of the 2013 festival is Challenge Perceptions.
“This theme was arrived at after the series of conflicts in Jos recently. It is hoped that the theatre would provide a platform for discussing some of the issues that plague the city,” he said.
Queen Amina of Zazzau, which recently completed a successful run in the nation’s capital, Abuja, tells the story of the legendary Queen of the ancient Empire of Zazzau, her administrative skills, her love for her people, her formidable spirit in war and her love life, which proved to be a ‘tragic flaw’ in her greatness.
Tomorrow, February 24, it is the turn of August Wilson’s Jitney. Set in a taxi (jitney) park, it is the story of a father’s bitter disappointment with his son and his inability and unwillingness to forgive his son before his own death. His son had shot and killed his white girlfriend in circumstances that could have been avoided.
Vaclav Havel’s Audience will be staged on Monday, February 25. The performance is in collaboration with the Embassy of Czech Republic.
It tells the story of life in the former Soviet Republic when workers and neighbours were not sure of who was an agent of the police or the Soviet KGB — Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (Committee for State Security). It will be recalled that Havel was the first President of former Czechoslovakia, and later, the Czech Republic. The story is told through the eyes of Havel’s alter ego, Vanek.
Tuesday, February 26, is the performance of Tennessee Williams’ Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Wednesday, February 27 is the repeat performance of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof — the story of a dysfunctional family, with a very sick patriarch, who meets to possibly share his property, while the man is dying. One of his sons, a lawyer, believes he should be the rightful heir, the son favoured by their father, is an alcoholic, who does not care for anything except his drink.
Thursday, February 28 is Femi Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel. It is a metaphor of a sick nation ruined by greed, waste and addictive corruption — it is midnight and the cover of darkness gives room for all sorts of vices and arrangements.
Friday, March 1 is the closing ceremony and will feature modern dances and final performance Midnight Hotel.
The fiesta was preceded by a pre-festival play, Banana Talks, staged last Sunday. In this play, two characters meet to examine their previous lives and compare these with their present existence.
Oteh said the festival would feature workshops in Arts Management, Directing, Make-Up and Salsa dances and training throughout the duration of the festival. All the workshops will hold during the day while the performances will be in the evening from 5pm. The festival will also be introducing the songs of Joy Okeshola.
“There would be post performance discussions between the audiences and the cast after each performance for everybody to contribute to the on-going discourse on the city of Jos,” he said.
“Two American plays are featuring in the festival as part of the yearly African-American History Month celebrations. It is hoped that the festival will provide answers to the raison d’être why people do the things they do. Above all, the festival will give us the avenue to celebrate ourselves and our work.”
He said the festival would continue to be a nurturing ground for new talents for the Nigerian stage. “This year, we are featuring Jumoke Olatubosun as our new director for the Nigerian stage, as she joins Osasogie Efe Guobadia, a graduate of the Nigerian Film Institute and Leonell Echa, a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Jos. Guobadia and Echa had their professional debut at the last festival.”
The plays for the festival, chosen by a panel, will examine issues ranging from greed, disappointment, cowardice, heroism, selflessness and duty to society.
The workshops will provide alternative career prospects for young people and aspiring actors to look deeply into the arts of the theatre as another viable means of work and a further challenge to their talents.
The festival will be extended to the nation’s capital, Abuja starting March 8 and for three weekends, there will be performances of plays from Jos, thrilling those who might not be able to come to Jos.
WITH the support of the Ford Foundation and following the dearth of theatre festivals in Nigeria, JRT has funded and hosted the Jos Festival of Theatre (2004), which idea is to feature various plays with as much diversity as possible in five weekends of performances during the months of March/April. The first edition featured four plays and a dance drama including the premiere of Our House, which was part of the British Council’s Connecting Futures programme. Our House successfully toured the UK in 2005.
The second Jos Festival of Theatre (2006) was devoted to new plays, new playwrights and new directors and featured the participation of the Glasgow-based Clyde Unity Theatre as well as the participation of Project Phakama, the youth project arm of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT).
The Repertory Theatre was founded in 1997 as a not-for-profit, independent theatre organisation, which seeks to use the theatre as a means of confronting and challenging crucial issues that affect our daily existence.
Under the artistic directorship of Oteh, who holds a Master of Arts degree, Theatre Arts (2005) from the University of Ibadan, as well as a Master of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy (1990) from the University of Jos, the organisation has engaged in activities ranging from play/poetry readings, production of formal (scripted) plays and the creation of informal (Theatre-For-Development) plays.
Backed by experiences from over two decades of theatre practice, having taken part in theatre-related activities in Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Italy, the United States of America, United Kingdom, the Repertory Theatre has been involved in training programmes for artistes, including amateurs, the creation of Theatre-For-Development plays, which include Valley Cry (2001), with which it toured four states – Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Kaduna — and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This was closely followed by Community Call (2002), which also toured the above states and the FCT, Abuja. The Ford Foundation sponsored all of these projects.
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