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Thespians lament state of Zim theatre

Life & Style
Zaza Muchemwa

VETERAN local theatre practitioners, who gathered for the Creative Hustle Seminar on theatre last week, have said lack of co-ordination and an unclear national strategy are curtailing the development of Zimbabwe’s theatre industry.

The Creative Hustle Seminar, which was held in the capital, was meant to enlighten thespians on the past, present and future of the local theatre performing arts industry.

It was organised by Afrotopia Creative Hub with the support of the British Council in Zimbabwe.

The seminar, that had top theatre practitioners such as Raisedon Baya, International Theatre Institute of Zimbabwe chairperson Zaza Muchemwa and Lady Tshawe as panellists provoked a sense of imagination on sustainable new theatre practices, structural development and maintenance, theatre education, production and artist management.

Above all, the forum was meant to reflect on best practices for thespians and mapping out good strategies for the development of theatre in Zimbabwe.

“Through the Creative Hustle Seminar, the idea was to bring together practising artists for the purposes of visualising ways of sourcing audience, evaluating themselves into a sustainable future while creating opportunities for others,” emerging filmmaker Fungai “FC Stanley” Chigumbura, who directed the panel at the forum, told NewsDay Life & Style.

Baya said theatre was a resilient medium that had managed to communicate effectively in spaces where other known media forms have failed to reach.

“My involvement in theatre arts has made me cautious on how to approach different life situations in line with the Censorship Act, artistic freedom and the demand to produce educational, entertaining as well as commercially viable theatrical productions,” he noted.

Baya pleaded with the government and stakeholders in theatre to maintain the few available theatre halls, while equipping them with relevant technologies such as lights and sound systems.

Muchemwa expressed the need for adequate funding for researchers so that theatre practitioners can be acquainted with reliable information in order to come up with good strategies.

“The idea is to get people to understanding theatre, safeguarding spaces, stakeholder building and gender mainstreaming. The government has the performance and visual arts curriculum which needs serious stakeholder participation and capacitation on content development,” she stated.

“There is need for us to come together and speak with one voice on theatre development in Zimbabwe. Also, there is need to put emphasis on sustainability before focusing on financial gains.”

Contrary to Chigumbura’s suggestion to make use of found spaces for rehearsals and theatrical performances, theatre doyen and spoken word artisan Lady Tshawe noted the need of effective maintenance of creative spaces to nurture, a positive mindset which probes good aesthetics.

According to Chigumbura, spaces could be under-utilised industrial spaces, abandoned garages or warehouses.

“This forum made us aware of the things we are doing right and the things we have to improve on. For now, I can say we are doing well and I should say, I chose theatre for the purpose of reaching out to people, she said.

Seasoned theatre producer and Rooftop Promotions/Theatre in the Park founder Daves Guzha challenged thespians to make use of the insights brought about by the conversation.

He also lobbied for journalists’ capacitation on the know-how in the theatre industry and its value chain in order to come up with good critiques that bring out good citizenship and accurate transmission of information.

Guzha’s sentiments cemented the earlier reflection that journalists tend to dwell too much on duplicating synopses without giving further interpretation and exposition required by the audience.

Nyamatsatse Festival organiser and prolific violin player Klara Anna Rosa said the forum was helpful in identifying gaps that needed to be filled with knowledge and expertise.

The issue of donor funding was also raised from the floor amid concerns that the aid should be given to artists without conditions for them to pursue prearranged creative briefs or themes which at times supersede other independent productions.

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