Ghanaian Theatre Practice Must Go Up Now!

The quest for a vibrant and viable theatre practice in Ghana has been an odyssey journey and long overdue.

It must therefore manifest now at the present time, in Ghana’s developmental process in order to accelerate its pace and momentum to benefit Ghana.

To this end, a higher level of theatre practice that will be somehow comparable to those of highly advanced and developed countries like the United States of America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan, China, India, Spain etc is highly needed in the present Ghanaian situation.

United States, the most developed and most powerful country in the modern world today, owes her stupendous and amazing developmental achievement to theatre practice!

It is a fact to know that the powerful U.S economy derives two-thirds of her revenue generation from theatre and itsadjacent; film making, music, dance, play productions etc.

Theatre practice is the most profitable and lucrative business that one can find in the U.S at the moment.

The U.S is still advancing in development and prosperity at the present time, and it is theatre practice that is propelling the U.S for her unbeatable level of economic prosperity and development.

At the present time, Ghana is recognized as one of the fastest developing countries in the modern world today; and it will be prudent for Ghana to take a cue from the U.S to develop Ghanaian theatre practice to a very high level notwithstanding the formidable challenges that prevail in the Ghanaian situation as far as theatre practice is concerned.

One of the most formidable challenges for theatre development and its practice in Ghana is the deep ignorance of many Ghanaians about the great potential and value of theatre practice to the development of countries all over the world today.

Many Ghanaians both lowly and highly educated, are completely ignorant about the key role that theatre plays in the development process of countries. Through ignorance, many Ghanaians look down upon theatre practice and despise it a discipline and profession. This can be likened to a hen sitting on her unhatched eggs!

Theatre practice is the sine qua non for knowledge, englightment, development and prosperity of countries since the classical era of Greece up to the modern times of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Italy, Spain, China etc.

It was theatre practice that propelled the ancient Greeks to achieve the Golden Age which occurred in the 5th century during the reign of King Pericles.

One finds himself or herself in a complete amazement on how up to now in the recorded history of mankind, many Ghanaians still do not understand fully what theatre is all about; its profitability and viability as economic endeavor to lift a country into wealth, prosperity and power like the U.S and other highly developed and wealthy countries as mentioned in the foregoing.

Theatre studies as a discipline is very popular and highly respected and valued at the top leading universities in America such as Yale, Harvard, Colombia, Stanford, Georgia, Texas, Indiana etc. Surprisingly and unfortunately, theatre discipline in Ghanaian universities such as the University of Ghana, Legon, Cape Coast University and University of Education, Winneba is looked down and ridiculed. What an ignorance at the highest degree of stupidity!

When will Ghanaians wake up from this terrible ignorance and begin to understand, appreciate and value theatre practice as the sine qua non for enlightment, development and prosperity?

As the Chinese proverb says a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so Ghanaians must be given sound education now about theatre and its practice to awaken them from their deep sleep of the knowledge about theatre practice and it value.

Theatre comes from the Greek root word “Theatron”! This word literally means “seeing place” Theatre can be performed on stage for audience. Theatre is basically about people living in society or one can say that theatre is a mirror of life. Thus, theatre encompasses every aspect of human life; for survival, economic growth, development and prosperity.

In the Ghanaian situation, as far as theatre is concerned, Efua Sutherland and Joe De Graft are regarded as the pioneers who laid a solid foundation for the development of theatre practice in the 1950s.

This was a brilliant start for theatre practice in the country. Unfortunately, theatre development and practice in the country had met great challenges that had had overwhelming negative effects. To this end, theatre development and practice had been gloomy and glowing that is fluctuating at certain periods of time up to the present time of 2021 in the twenty first century.

In spite of the fact that, Jerry John Rawling’s government of the PNDC exercised a great political will to negotiate for a Chinese government loan worth 10 million U.S dollars to put up a gigantic theatre complex building in the 1990s in Accra for the promotion and development of theatre practice in the country. Theatre practice is still very low in Ghana.

One would have expected that Ghana would have experienced a very high level of theatre practice by now as the National Theatre Complex building should serve as catalyst for an accelerated theatre practice in Ghana.

Unfortunately, this is not so in the Ghanaian situation now as theatre practice is relatively very low and yet to make any significant mark in Ghana.

TayebSadiki, the renowned Moroccan dramatist in his book titled,“Black African Theatre And Its Social Functions” states categorically concerning theatre as follows: “If you want to build a nation start with a national theatre”.

Ghana had been fortunate to build a gigantic complex theatre building for the practice of theatre; and in addition has set up an effective and workable administrative machinery to promote theatre practice in the country about three decades ago, yet Ghana has not been able to reach an appreciable and satisfactory level of theatre practice as at now; and one wonders what had gone amiss in the Ghanaian situation as far as theatre practice is concerned.

This unfortunate situation calls for a radical and critical review and replaning strategies aimed at making theatre practice in Ghana vibrant and viable as in other countries in the modern world today.

Ghanaian theatre practice had been in the wilderness of an Odyssey journey since the 1950’s and it is high time that Ghana asserts herself; and bring theatre practice to the level of world standards, so that she can forge ahead faster in her developmental efforts as a country.

In the pursuit of revamping theatre practice in the Ghanaian situation at the present time, I suggest that with government’s strong support, a high powered commission should be setup which should comprise membership from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture And Creative Arts, the National Commission On Culture, academics from the tertiary institutions of the University of Ghana, Legon, University of Education, Winneba and the University of Cape Coast.

This commission should be given a period of at least one year to do a thorough brain storming for an effective and workable planning strategies for implementation.

A monitoring team should be set up to do periodic reviewing of achievements and setting goals forward for the effective promotion of theatre practice in the country.

The crust of the matter on this theatre issue in the Ghanaian situation is that the government of Ghana must be fully and deeply involved; and sponsor theatre promotion and its practice in the country, as the ancient Greece theatre operated during the 5th Century of the reign of King Pericles when the Greeks attained their Golden Age. This will definitely take the Ghanaians theatre practice out of its present doldrums to a very high level.

It is worth noting that the United States of America where theatre practice is at its highest level at the moment began seriously to develop her theatre practice after 4th July, 1776 of her achievement of independence from Great Britain, and had been able to achieve her present stupendous and enviable status as the most wealthy and powerful country in the modern world today.

The United States is a typical example to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that theatre practice is the sine qua non for any realistic and meaningful development in our modern world today as it was during the classical era of Greece’s civilization of knowledge and englightment.

It is also worthwhile revisiting the remarkable statement on theatre practice by TayebSadiki, the renowned Moroccan theatre authority and practitioner on theatre practice being pre-requisite for building a nation. And I dare challenge Ghanaian authorities and experts on theatre practice to move heaven and earth and at all costs to make concerted efforts to address what I have suggested in the foregoing; and put theatre practice in the right perspective and position in the Ghanaian situation at the present time.

There is no harm in taking the bull by the horns. To this end, I entreat all Ghanaians from different walks of life to jump into the band wagon to find lasting solutions to the hitherto low theatre psyche and low theatre practice in the country, so that Ghana can sail smoothly through her developmental programmes such asthe present on going one; Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda.

In conclusion, I state categorically that Ghanaian theatre practice is of age now; and so it must be raised up by Ghanaians in every possible way, so that it can at least compare favourably to what obtains in middle developed countries; or even the most developed and advanced countries of the world today as mentioned in this article. A very high level of theatre practice is the panacea and guarantee for Ghana’s optimum economic growth, development and prosperity at the present time!

By Michael Akenoo

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