Donor fatigue, cash woes hit theatre hard

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Talent Gore Arts Correspondent
Local theatre seems to be taking its last breath as only a handful of plays are going on stage, while paltry numbers are attending what used to draw revellers in their hundreds.

Zimbabwe is awash with amazing talent as its universities are churning out theatre arts graduates by the hundreds.

Ironically, some of the world’s best theatre brains are Zimbabwean, among them renowned theatre practitioner and founder of Theatre in the Park, Daves Guzha, who is the president of Arterial Network Africa and chairperson of the fifth African Union Pan-African Cultural Congress Bureau and celebrated actress and playwright Danai Gurira.

This leaves many questioning what causes a sector that has so many apt players struggling to make a robust impact in society today.

Theatre practitioner and Bustop TV creative director Dereck Nziyakwi said financial constraints were the major setback.

“There is no way a person can afford $20 for transport and theatre entrance fees. It is nearly impossible.

“Before, theatre used to thrive because of donor funding but now those donors cannot fund us anymore. It is now hard for theatre to thrive,” he said.

“Also, when theatre started, we used to do rehearsals for free in city halls owned by the City Council. Now they want us to pay a certain amount of money. The city council used to play a major role in developing theatre in different communities.”

He said the diminishing of arts organisations has also contributed immensely to the deterioration of theatres in the country.

“Another thing is the issue of arts organisations. Growing up there used to be so many national arts organisations that played a major role in mentoring a lot of theatre organisations. From the time those organisations collapsed we no longer have one voice.

“We cannot approach the Government as individuals for support and funding,” said Nziyakwi.

Founder of one of the blossoming theatre hub, Savanna Trust Daniel Maposa said there are a myriad of challenges affecting the theatre sector in Zimbabwe.

“The first thing is that the standard of theatre productions has unbelievably deteriorated due to lack of exposure and proper training of theatre makers so that their productions can be of acceptable quality in line with international standards,” he said.

“There is also a serious lack of financial investment in the theatre sector. Most of the theatre produced for professional circuits is poor theatre- not in style but in outlook.

“This comes as a result of lack of resources to finance all the aspects of theatre like set, good actors, good scripts and good directors.”

Maposa who has made inroads on the global stage through the genre and is creating employment for youths via Savanna Trust, also feels that the absence of deft writers has caused the genre to struggle on the local front.

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