The Dearth of Stage Plays for School Children in Nigeria

The dearth of stage plays for school children in Nigeria is pronounced now more than ever before.

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A cursory search on YouTube for stage performances for a literary text like The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka will reveal a not too encouraging result. The most complete production of the play, spanning one hour thirty-three minutes, was performed by The National Drama Company of Guyana. Other performances are basically excerpts of the play. The longest of these excerpts takes about forty-five minutes to watch. Technology has come to the rescue, hence this plays and others can be watched on viewing platform like YouTube. Yet the fact remains that the dearth of physical stage plays for school children has robbed them of the overall experience and exposure needed to enjoy and thrive in the performing arts.

Growing up, in a place like Lagos, in the 90’s gave school children, particularly secondary school children, the opportunity to watch drama performance for set texts for examinations like West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations were a common trend. Most times, the venue of such performances was the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. As a result of this studying literature in secondary school was both a delight and encouraging.

Also, Theatre arts departments of schools like University of Lagos, University of Ibadan and the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) churned out production of some of these set texts and enabled more students to enjoy stage plays. Even prose texts were adapted for dramatic performances much to the delights of teachers and students. I remember watching Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe at the National Theatre and the experience helped me a great deal when answering questions in examinations.

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These days, such experiences are almost nonexistent. The advent of computer and smart phone technology has almost taken the shine out of dramatic productions on the stage. Yet these new technologies can serve to enhance the performance of stage plays if all hands are on deck.

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