COMMUNIQUE OF THE FIRST PLAYWRIGHTS CONFAB HELD IN OAU,ILE-IFE


 
INTRODUCTION

The first confab of Nigerian playwrights was held at the Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU), Ile-Ife from 8th-10th March, 2013 at the Conference Centre. The confab organized by the Institute of Cultural Studies in conjunction with the Department of Dramatic Arts of the University attracted over one hundred playwrights across generational and geographical divides.

The confab, an initiative of renowned playwright Femi Osofisan, had several themes necessary for an appraisal of the playwriting enterprise. These themes included but was not limited to the state of playwriting in the post-military era; the playwright’s experience in contemporary society; philosophy, ideology and culture in Nigerian and African playwriting; the quality of plays in our dramatic literature over the decades; the problems of having plays staged and published typically encountered by playwrights especially of the younger generation; inter-generational and intra-generational relations between Nigerian playwrights with special reference to the complexities of the influence of the “Masters”; and relations between playwriting for the stage, for films, for television and for publication as literature. 

OBSERVATIONS

The confab identified the crises and challenges confronting playwriting and playwrights such as crisis of relevance, crisis of visibility, crisis of fragmentation of community, and crisis of exhaustion; funding; language; censorship and tyranny in both the military and post-military eras; and the survival strategies of writers; the mass illiteracy and the absence of a vibrant reading culture in the Nigerian nation; and the problem of alienation of the masses due to their marginalization by the elites. The confab also discussed the question of who the playwright is writing for, the dearth of theatres in which to stage plays and the challenges posed to live theatre by various social media such as film, television and more importantly the viewing centres dedicated mostly foreign soccer leagues.

The confab also identified the problems of distraction occasioned by survival needs that lead to acceptance of appointments that reduce commitment to the creative enterprise; the phenomenon of too many self-published plays that are of low quality by younger playwrights in terms of both form and content as a result of lack of good editorial input. Another major problem identified at the confab was the decline in reading culture which, among other factors, can be traced to the removal of Literature in English as a compulsory requirement for Ordinary Level education.

A major point of contention at the confab was the imitation of masters by younger playwrights who borrow creative idioms without understanding their true essence thereby producing works that do not adequately or authentically reflect their contemporary realities.


RECOMMENDATIONS

In relation to the observations above, the confab recommends that:

1.     Playwrights should make their plays relevant to the needs of the society.

2.     Playwrights should advocate the building of cottage theatres in all local government areas of the country

3.     A national community or organization of playwrights should be inaugurated

4.     Retreats or centres should be created where  tools for play writing and play production are readily available.

5.     There is a need for writers to break away from Greaco-Roman models and create authentic African paradigms.

6.     Drama and theatre should become a staple in school curriculum throughout the country.

7.     A vibrant reading culture should be inculcated as an important feature of Nigerian society.

8.     Reading clubs and debating societies  also be reintroduced in schools as they once existed in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria

9.     The confab be made a biennial event as a way of consolidating the tremendous achievements of the confab, with special regard to sustaining vital activities and contacts in the periods between confabs.

Conclusion

The confab observed a minute’s silence in honour of  playwrights and theatre practitioners such as Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Ken Saro Wiwa ,Ola Rotimi, Zulu Sofola, Duro Ladipo, Bode Osanyin, Esiaba Irobi, Ossy Enekwe, Laide Adewale,  and Wale Ogunyemi and others.

The next confab is to hold in 2015 at the same venue, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife with Professor Femi Osofisan given the mandate to organise it