William Shakespeare the world famous and evergreen playwright and dramatist of all time was born at Strafford-on-Avon in England during the 16th century period of theatre practice. When Shakespeare was at the age of eleven, he started writing plays for staging in London. He worked with the Globe Theatre of London of which he had a share in ownership.
The Globe Theatre Company contributed immensely to the staging of Shakespeare’s plays and made him very famous as playwright and a dramatist.
Before Shakespearian period of theatre practice as far back as the classical era of Greece in the 5th century B.C theatre performance was staged through a company or group (chorus) numbering fifty singers.
This was called the dithyramb. Before the dithyramb stage of theatre performance, Thespis, the first known actor performed solely. As ancient Greece theatre evolved and developed, it was performed better through company or group on stage. For a better performance of theatre it has to involve more than one person or actor. A theatre company or group can simply be explained as the number of actors or performers on stage performing a play or any dramatic piece for an audience.
After the Greek classical era, through the Roman era, the middle ages, The Renaissance, the Elizabethan period of theatre in England up to the modern times of theatrical performance, a better and amplified performance of theatre is made easy through the enactment of more than one person. Theatre is a collaborative art and this is why it must involve more than one person in its manifestation.
World famous playwrights and dramatists such as Henrik Ibsen, Bertolt Brecht, Anthon Checkov Stringberg etc. worked to fame through the great assistance of theatre companies or groups. In contemporary theatre practice in the modern world today, the involvement of theatre companies and groups cannot be dispensed with as this situation supports theatre performance in every way.
The pioneer of Ghanaian theatre practice, Efua Sutherland worked with a theatre company or group called Kosum Agromma to write her plays such as Foriwa, The Marriage of Anansewa etc.
The Ghanaian Theatrical scene of the 1980s and 1990s which was quite busy and vibrant had a number of theatre companies and groups like the Talents, Abibigromma, Theatre Mirrors etc. who performed impressively on stage and was very popular. Now, one can rarely hear of these theatre companies and groups in the country. This situation is probably due to the present dismal state of Ghanaian theatre practice. In fact, it appears as if Ghanaian theatre practice is on the decline and heading towards dearth. It must be rescued from this unpleasant state at all costs!
In order to make the present dismal Ghanaian theatre practice scene once more busy as it used to be in the 1980’s and the 1990’s there must be profuse emergence of theatre companies and groups in the country now: of course this can happen simultaneously with the emergence of a new generation of Ghanaian playwrights, poets, musicians and Choreographers, as theatre companies and groups cannot operate or perform without creative theatrical works.
Obviously, budding young Ghanaian and creative artists must be gifted or talented and also attain formal education and training in their various specialties from educational institutions that provide training and development of creative artists at the University of Ghana, Legon, Theatre Arts Departments at the Universities of Cape Coast and Winneba, NAFTI Institute and the Methodist University College must expand and increase their intake of Creative arts students,. Besides increasing intake of students, these educational institutions for creative arts should provide a kind of teaching and learning that will be professionally oriented, so that the graduates from these institutions will be highly imbued with practicing their professions instead of directing their attention somewhere else, which they had not been educated and trained for.
By this approach and methodology in the teaching and learning at the institutions of creative arts in the country, I believe a large number of young Ghanaian creative artists such as playwrights, script writers etc will definitely emerge on the contemporary Ghanaian theatrical scene to practice without diverting and venturing into other endeavours of life for fortune and livelihood.
Although at present, the government shows interest in Ghanaian theatre practice or the creative arts for that matter; as it has established a complete Ministry to cater for Ghanaian creative arts, it should show more and keener interest by means of heavy financial support in order to boost the Creative arts industry in the country.
This will go a long way to empower and inspire Ghanaian theatre artists to work very hard and increase their output. The present Ghanaian low theatre psyche must be raised higher in order to inspire Ghanaian Creative artists. This is because a vibrant and viable theatre practice anywhere at any time in history depends on a very high level of theatre psyche. Ghanaians must therefore develop a passionate love and deep interest in theatre practice; and this will certainly enhance Ghanaian theatre practice significantly.
Theatre companies and groups will abound and thrive in the country only, if all that have been presented in the foregoing will become evident and manifest in the contemporary Ghanaian theatrical scene. This is a big challenge that faceGhanaian theatre practicenow; but it will overcome this challenge with time as other countries had done in the evolution and development of their theatre practices.
I have the conviction that Ghanaian theatre companies and groups will emerge profusely on the contemporary Ghanaian theatrical scene within a relatively short period of time from now; and perform quantitatively and qualitatively with a blend of works of the old and new generations of Ghanaian creative artists. And the present dismal performance of the Ghanaian theatre will bounce again reminiscent of the period between the 1970s and the 1990s.
Finally, Ghanaian theatre practice cannot continue to be in stagnation, but must be dynamic and move forward as other countries’ theatre practices are doing now; and Ghana’s aspiration to achieve a very high level of economic growth and development will be significantly enhancedand accelerated.
By Michael Akenoo Theatre Critic.