West African Theater
African theatre is composed of live performances in which the action are carefully planned to give a powerful sense of drama through large actions and it comes from sub-Saharan Africa.
African theatre is influenced by African dramatic traditions and Western theatre. The influence of Western styles originates from European presence, European education , and the artists training outside of Africa. The magnitude of foreign influence varies from country to country. This influence slowed the development of African theatre in Zimbabwe. For example, productions continued to exemplify Western theatre. The Afrocentricity in West Africa in the 1960s was a reaction to the oppression of French Directors. They left a mark on production styles. Examples of such oppression can be seen in the Daniel Surano Theatre in Senegal. This is where the productions of Aimé Césaire can be seen. The productions of Bernard Dadié reflect French comic traditions and Jean Pliya is one the many of playwrights focused on the European historical events. The writing of Western playwrights has resulted in a literary style that appeals to a sophisticated and rare audience to which dance and music productions have a minor role in the theatrical arts.
Village theatre in Africa is based on the tried and true traditions of music, song, dance, and drama. This produced a fertile foundation for the development of urban contemporary theatrics. Theatric entrepreneurs built upon the traditional village storytelling and borrowed production styles from the European productions performed in West African urban areas in the 20s and ’30s. Concert productions traveled in Togo and Ghana. During the 50s the Ghanaian “Trios” appeared with Bob Cole and his company performing for audiences in Accra with hilarious dramatizations of the local events. The first professional theatres in Nigeria were produced by the local actor-managers. The three most successful were Kola Ogunmola, Duro Ladipa, and Hubert Ogunde. They were all Yoruba and started work as teachers by making plays based on the Bible stories in African churches. Ogunde’s first production was The Garden of Eden (1944) in the Church of the Lord. Then in 1945 he made a satire called Strike and Hunger. It was based on the clash between Nigerian workers and the European bosses. Ogunde’s success had allowed him to create the Ogunde concert party. It had a style similar to the British concert parties of the time. They performed domestic comedies and political satires between the opening and the closing with interjections of song and dance unrelated to the plot.
The popularity Nigerian independence in 1960 brought an explosion of productions in the urban arts focused on new African forms and the disapproval of European influences. This resulted in an imaginative presence in literary and popular theatre that was to be influential throughout Africa. Yoruba Opera companies, also known as traveling theatres, had hit the road. Ladipo produced spectacular productions based on themes from Yoruba mythology and history. His series on the kingdom of Oyo was published in 1964 as Three Yoruba Productions (Oba Koso [“The King Did Not Hang”], Oba Moro [“The King of Ghosts”], and Oba Waja [“The King Is Dead”]), had the power and mythology similar to a traditional Greek tradegy.
Kola Ogunmola created comedies portraying himself as the amazing actor and mime. He modified the techniques of Ogunde by replacing the saxophones with the Yoruba drum. He wrote strictly structured lines without destroying the gentility of the social satires. His most commonly seen production is Ife Owo (1950; Love of Money). His greatest success was with Omuti Apa Kini (1963). Although Ogunmola and Ladipo died in the 70s, their legacy lived on as decorated trucks transported Yoruba Opera companies to one-night performances...
Bibliography: 1.Abiodun, Rowland, Henry John. Drewal, and John Pemberton. The Yoruba Artist: New Theoretical Perspectives on African Arts. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1994. 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
2. Ann Wynne, Elizabeth Gunner, and Peggy Harper Jr. "African Theatre (art)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.
3.Ogunba, Oyin, and Abiola Irele. Theatre in Africa. Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan UP, 1978. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
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