Have You Been to Theatre Lately? [analysis]

I am going to the National theatre this weekend to watch Taibah International School’s Mfalme Simba, an adaptation of The Lion King, a very popular film.

As it usually does, Taibah will stage a lively gala of music, dance and drama with a cast of nearly 300 children. Whereas Taibah gets sold out on all days, possibly because parents, siblings and peers are under pressure to attend, NTV News at Nine featured a worrying report, showing that theatre houses are empty these days.

And it is not just the Uganda National Cultural Centre (National theatre) that is out of fashion, according to NTV all are suffering. The worry is that there are not that many theatres in the country. On the other hand, our youth, teenagers and young adults, are very much into films, especially American.

However, it seems that the adult nation is hooked on short jokes, those that fit into WhatsApp messages and or other social media platforms. Indeed, we are so much into short comedy skits that all television bulletins currently have resident comedians featured on particular days. The ‘Kina-Uganda’ film is on the rise but it does not command as big an audience as the ‘Kina-Nigeria’ film.

There are immense benefits for children, from involvement in theatrical performance and studying drama. The most obvious skills learned from drama are speaking and listening. Drama students plus those who have participated in dramatic productions are generally articulate and able to listen to others.

Performance enables one to build confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline and self-reliance. Students also gain inter-personal skills and are able to organise events, prioritise activities and converse meaningfully with adults. Participation in a production for a public audience creates some risk for students. It means that they must collaborate and work in teams they then take responsibility for entertaining others, including strangers and some are required to become leaders.

Drama students gain skills of analysis, reasoning and problem-solving otherwise, it is impossible to access or recreate a work of fiction. The more able students should be able to conceptualise issues and engage in abstract thinking and or creative thinking in addition to developing empathy for their communities.

If you have a friend who forever wishes to dominate conversations, who never listens, one who talks over or shouts out others, it is perhaps because they missed out on drama class. Or they never performed in any role-play or drama at school because such conditions force you to understand that one has to listen and wait for their turn to speak.

Music, dance and drama (MDD) performance is also good at arresting restlessness and development of poise. Some children that take long to settle down to work can be improved if they take an interest in singing, dancing or acting because some personal discipline is required to achieve success.

For me, it is the legendary cricket commentator and Australian cricket captain Richie Benaud, who died recently, that personified all the goodness attributed to performance. In 2012, Benaud sent an email to a journalist who had inquired about his fondest memories when commentating on cricket.

Instead, he revealed his secret to success by listing the rules by which he lived. They have since been termed the ‘golden rules’ of commentating that every sports presenter should employ. Indeed, there is a lot for all of us to learn anyway.

Develop a distinctive style

Put your brain into gear before opening your mouth

There are no teams in the TV world called ‘we’ or ‘they’

Concentrate fiercely at all times

Try to avoid allowing these past your lips: “Of course, you know… ”

Never say, “That’s a tragedy or disaster… ”

Never ask a statement

Remember the value of the pause

Above all, don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun.

Benaud’s family must have picked up some skills of diplomacy and articulation from the old man. When the Australian prime minister offered a state funeral for Benaud last week, his wife ‘kindly declined!’

Great teachers generally use drama, especially role-play as a teaching and learning style but perhaps we do not employ it enough. Some of the students I teach misconceive the sciences as very hard subjects.

However, I have noticed that they are able to sing songs in foreign languages excellently even when they do not understand a single word in the lyrics! Right now, the craze is on Nigerian music and our teenagers sing so accurately you would think they have family back there!

How, then, can we devise musicals or theatrical performances of physics, biology, chemistry and math for all children to enjoy them?

The author is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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