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National Theatre, do the honourable and stop killing the arts!

My support for the construction of the National Cathedral is for no other reason than getting another big venue to organise events. For those of us interested in the arts, it is clear that the country’s capacity to host major events is a bit lacking. Have you wondered how come a national event such as the independence parade was held at a stadium, for which Ghana’s Black Stars were nearly ported to Benin to play a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier against Nigeria’s Super Eagles? The pitch at the Cape Coast Stadium got depleted after the 65th Independence Anniversary, which should have been held at a specially designed park like the Black Star Square in Accra other than a stadium.

Recent events such as the Afrochella and the Afro Nation have bullied other equally-patronised events over venues and even for these major events, which have invariably attracted tourists over the past years since the launch of the Year of Return, sports stadiums come to the rescue.

The National Cathedral will seat over 5,000 capacity

For me, the National Cathedral will definitely help in attracting gospel shows, in particular, so that the pressure on other venues like the Fantasy Dome, Grand Arena and the National Theatre will be eased.

But one worrying situation about these designated venues for entertainment, music and art festivals is the attitude of managers of the facilities. Theatre in Ghana has suffered a great deal due to the pockets of coup d’etats in the late 1960s into the 1980s. In fact, prior to 1993, when Ghana returned to democratic rule, there was over a decade of military rule. This system of government – 10 years of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime – is what nailed the coffin on theatre and arts. After the return to democracy, however, efforts were made to revive theatre in order to project the country’s arts and culture. Shows like PANAFEST, KIDAFEST, Concert Party and others attracted patrons to the National Theatre as a gradual rise of the arts was witnessed.

At least, students of Theatre Arts had hopes of growing their careers with the ascent of patronage in arts and entertainment. I remember my Level 100 days at the University of Ghana, Legon, moving all the way from the English Department, which was sandwiched on the hill between Commonwealth Hall, Volta Hall and Legon Hall, all the way down to the Theatre Arts Department. I enjoyed lectures from the venerable Professor Martin Owusu, whose twin brother in class, once, eluded us all as none of us failed to realise that the latter was not our beloved lecturer. Those were the days I had to learn about the ‘proscenium stage’, ‘amphitheatre’, one of which was behind Commonwealth Hall much to our surprise, the ‘thrust stage’ etc. I had to part with Theatre Arts because of the distance with the English Department.

Over the last few years, Ghanaians are growing a love for stagecraft. This has been much buoyed by the likes of James Ebo Whyte, popularly called Uncle Ebo, whom I don’t miss on radio every Monday and Thursday morning, Latif Abubakari, and my good friend Kobina Ansah. Uncle Ebo Whyte may have had the experience over the years but Latif and Kobina Ansah, The Scribe, as his sobriquet goes, are doing a Yeoman’s job. The Scribe’s biannual plays at the National Theatre have not only attracted a lot of patrons but also given life to theatre in Ghana. No wonder, my family will always ask me when the next play is due. I got some kids – now grown – to watch one of his plays and they have since been asking for a live stream to watch now that they are continuing life in the UK.

‘Once Upon A Riddle’ showed at the National Theatre

I was in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup but much in anticipation of getting home in time to watch the much-talked about ‘Once Upon A Riddle’. I couldn’t fly back in time as planned but decided to monitor online the show online on Saturday, December 10, 2022. Unfortunately, the first show was marred by well over two hours of lights-out. Managers of the facility, I hear, were no where to be found and had no stand-by plant to save the situation on time. What an embarrassment! Any show organiser would have literally slumped to death for such a mishap, which is no fault of theirs! A show which has been promoted for months just goes off, literally, like that? Thank God the lights came back for the rest of the first show while the second show also passed.

I’m back in town and in checking up on my friends – Mr Ansah included – as part of my New Year ritual, I sought to know if National Theatre of Ghana apologised for the mishap. Much to my surprise, no apologies, be it public nor private, has come from the management, I was told. The Scribe is left alone to do the damage control all by himself. But for the love for him and what he is doing for mother Ghana in the filed of theatre and arts, Kobina Ansah’s fast-rising career as one of Ghana’s foremost playwrights will come tumbling down.

Playwright Kobina Ansah

I call on the National Theatre of Ghana, whose board chairman I knew way back in my TV Africa days as a young sports presenter, and its Executive Director to do the needful and not only apologise to The Scribe but also put in place measures in order not to “kill” the efforts of Ghanaians giving life to stage plays.

A lot is at stake for the young playwright and a public apology is the least you can do for him!

The writer is the Editor-in-Chief for 3news.com.

DISCLAIMER

Opinions expressed are solely his and do not represent the brand of Media General.

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