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‘Local theatre is in limbo’

Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (IYASA) director Nkululeko Innocent Dube said the genre had failed to break through to new audiences and fresh theatre fanatics.

ARTS practitioners have expressed their disappointment over lack of growth of theatre due to lack of resources and support ahead of the World Theatre Day on March 20.

Speaking to Standard Style, Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (IYASA) director Nkululeko Innocent Dube said the genre had failed to break through to new audiences and fresh theatre fanatics.

“The state of theatre in Bulawayo is in limbo. For me it’s on and off and there are many reasons why. I think creatives are doing very well in terms of content but the audiences are not growing.

“It’s the same people watching the shows. We are not breaking through to new audiences and fresh theatre fanatics, “he said.

He said there are a lot of programmes like Isiphiwo, CTD, Plan and Intwasa, Geraldine among others that are working hard to promote theatre by young people and for young people.

“I believe the young people are doing remarkably well in blossoming into a bright future for theatre in general. Of note also, theatre is now a part of many schools' ‘curriculum and this is a big boost to the vibrancy and longevity of theatre existence in our country,” he said.

Multi-award winning Umkhathi Theatre Works founder, Matesu Dube said theatre in Bulawayo is not growing due to lack of resources and support from other sectors of the economy.

“We have good stories, actors and directors but we are lacking support to take our shows to a higher level. We need to improve on the technical part of our shows such as stage set, lighting, sound and other technical aspects that boost the visual effects of our presentation.

 “Zimbabwe’s theatre has been stagnant for a long time as we do not have the required infrastructure for theatre performances, we rehearse in makeshift venues then perform at a different venue where we have to pay a lot of money to hold shows, “he said.

Asked what they are doing to keep the theatre culture going and making sure it’s passed to the next generation, Dube said they are working with schools, training them in theatre arts.

“We also have theatre shows for children. We will be celebrating Assitej Day and we will invite schools to come watch the performances. Children in Bulawayo are mostly involved in theatre at school.

“Before Covid-19, we had a vibrant children’s theatre in Bulawayo. There were organizations that trained children in theatre arts but now only the Centre for Talent Development is active, “he added.

In addition, Dube said “March 20 is a day to celebrate Theatre for Young Audiences internationally and this year’s theme is “Take a child to the theatre.”

Veteran theatre director and actor Memory Kumbota said, “I believe the state of theatre is generally on a growth trajectory following the Covid-19 lockdown disruptions. There is interesting work all round. Young people with new ideas and a new energy have ably and enthusiastically taken up the mantle.”

Dube said there are many young people interested in theatre despite the massive leap in digital technology, the unique nature of theatre as a live performance experience still maintains interest with discerning audiences.

 “There are young people who see the theatre as a way to engage their peers and elders and address a wide range of concerns such as issues around the girl child, peer pressure and alcohol and drug abuse.

 “I personally do a lot of training and consultancy work in the area of empowering the younger generation with the necessary skills in various aspects of theatre,” he said.

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