ART & CUL­TURE

Show­cas­ing Kernyan the­atre

Business Daily (Kenya) - - MARKET DATA - l

The sec­ond edi­tion of the Kenya In­ter­na­tional The­atre Fes­ti­val (KITF) will be open­ing next Thurs­day at Al­liance Fran­caise, run­ning through Sun­day night.

But after the first fes­ti­val ended up run­ning on a “zero bud­get” (apart from the Godown Art Cen­tre cov­er­ing the rental costs of Kenya Na­tional The­atre), it is un­likely that any­one other than the fes­ti­val’s founder Kevin Ki­mani Kahuro would have thought a sec­ond the­atre fete was fea­si­ble this year.

But Kevin is pas­sion­ate about the­atre. He’s also per­sis­tent, hav­ing what seems like a prophetic per­spec­tive on what such a fes­ti­val could mean to the fu­ture of Kenyan the­atre both in the re­gion and in the world.

His vi­sion has been clear since 2013. It’s all about what he says is the need for Kenyan thespians (like the ones he works most closely with at Keny­atta Univer­sity) for a wider, more ex­pan­sive plat­form where the abun­dance of the coun­try’s the­atri­cal ta­lent can per­form and shine. That vi­sion is what led to his dream­ing up the Kenya In­ter­na­tional The­atre Fes­ti­val.

Still a stu­dent of the­atre, a mas­ter’s de­gree can­di­date in KU’S De­part­ment of The­atre and Film, Kevin ex­plains that his in­sight came grad­u­ally, start­ing with the feel­ing that he and his peers needed more ex­po­sure and more op­por­tu­ni­ties to per­form pub­li­cally. So first, he man­aged to per­suade his fel­low KU stu­dents to en­list in the Kenya Schools and Col­leges Drama Fes­ti­val.

“We didn’t do very well that first year (2011) but we were much bet­ter pre­pared in 2012. Thus, we won in ev­ery sin­gle cat­e­gory the fol­low­ing year,’ Kevin re­calls.

Then when 2013 rolled around, KU thespians was keen on keep­ing up their mo­men­tum at the Drama Fes­ti­val. But this time round, they didn’t win in a sin­gle cat­e­gory, which Kevin found be­wil­der­ing.

That was when it dawned on him that Kenyan thespians needed to ex­pand their vi­sion and broaden their per­for­mance plat­form. In essence, he felt the Drama Fes­ti­val was just too small for Kenyan thespians, be they univer­sity-trained by pro­fes­sion­als like David Mulwa or the late Fran­cis Im­buga or trained on the job in the­atre troupes like Heart­strings En­ter­tain­ment or The The­atre Com­pany.

Last year, it was only the Ethiopian Na­tional The­atre Troupe that man­aged to at­tend the first KIT fes­ti­val. But Kevin and the KU casts who also took part in the fete found the “in­ter­na­tional” ex­change both en­light­en­ing and en­ter­tain­ing. “For­tu­nately, the Ethiopi­ans were able to get their Kenya-based em­bassy to cover the cost of their trans­port,” Kevin says, ad­mit­ting he was hard-pressed to cover the costs of the troupes’ ac­com­mo­da­tion.

This year, KU and KITF are co­op­er­at­ing with Unesco’s Kenya Na­tional Com­mis­sion to bring three in­ter­na­tional the­atre troupes to Kenya where they’ll take part in the four-day fes­ti­val.

The three are com­ing from South Africa, Zim­babwe and Uganda. The Black Ice Dance Com­pany from Uganda will per­form Novem­ber 16 dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Fes­ti­val.

The fol­low­ing night, the Hu­rungue Arts Fes­ti­val from Zim­babwe will stage the play en­ti­tled Caged all about cor­rup­tion. And on Satur­day night, the Zika The­atre Move­ment from South Africa will per­form Devil’s Dis­ci­ple.

In ad­di­tion to the three African troupes per­form­ing, there will be a num­ber of productions staged by mainly KU stu­dent thespians. They’ll per­form plays like Fran­cis Im­buga’s

The Suc­ces­sor and Ole Ro­timi’s Our Hus­band has gone Mad Again, among oth­ers. But the first two days of the fes­ti­val will em­brace a con­fer­ence whose theme is “Link­ing Academia and Prac­tice”.

It is a con­cern that is shared by both UNESCO and the Fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers as well as by KU.

Through a se­ries of ex­ploratory talks, the­fes­ti­val will ad­dress is­sues re­lated to link­ages be­tween Kenyan univer­sity the­atre pro­grammes and pub­lic the­atri­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, which cur­rently don’t seem to ex­ist. Why that chasm ex­ists be­tween the aca­demics and the pub­lic prac­ti­tion­ers and how it can be bridged will open up dis­cus­sions that will hope­fully bear fruit and also strengthen Kenya’s the­atre scene.

Speak­ers will in­clude Dr John Muguti, Dean of KU’S School of Cre­ative Arts, Dr Em­manuel Shikuku, Chair­man of KU’S De­part­ment of Film and The­atre Arts, Ian Mbugua and Mil­li­cent Ogutu.

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COUR­TESY

ON STAGE Keny­atta Univer­sity stu­dents per­form at KITF.

KITF. -COUR­TESY

VIS­IT­ING Ethiopian Na­tional The­atre troupe at

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