The story of Bartholomew Oshionebo could be said to be that of grass to grace, as we see him evolve from a young boy running errands for Missionaries to becoming an erudite scholar and a Great Professor.
Prof Oshionebo on Thursday took us into the future of Educational Theatre at the University of Abuja while he delivered the 27th Inaugural lecture of the University entitled “Drama and Theatre-in-Education and Educational Theatre of the Future”.
“The future of Educational Theatre is very bright and promising,” says the erudite scholar.
Theatre will become the cornerstone of our economy if it is well handled, he maintains.
Theatre Studies is the discipline that has propelled Nigeria into the International world. Such that “Theatre a profession once looked down upon has become the cornerstone,” he says.
Nollywood according to him has projected Nigeria to the outside world more than any other industry thus government should support theatre practitioners.
“Government support theatre scholars. Don’t look down on this discipline. The discipline can take this country to a higher level”, he solicits.
“We need to sing our songs in a more robust way that will make it popular”, he adds.
Professor Oshionebo recommends Multimedia approach to reach a wider audience; Publicity to attract more people to the live theatre; application of new technologies to scenography and lighting as well as the use of traditional aesthetics.
Stressing on traditional aesthetics, Oshionebo recommends genres that will serve as social therapy for Nigerians.
In his words, “Nigerians are so burdened. Nigerians have seen a lot of tragedy, so no more tragedy on stage. They want to relax, they don’t want too much grammar – They don’t want a foreign accent on stage. They want you to say it as it is. They need things to relax them like comedy, dance, music, love…because outside they see killings everywhere, from Boko Haram Insurgency, Fulani Herdsmen and farmers’ clashes thus no more killings on stage. Give them something to relax”.
Speaking further, he identified the functions of Drama/Theatre to be sources of Entertainment, Information and Social Therapy to reduce stress.
The unique roles of Drama and Theatre Education according to him include Entertainment as well as the teaching of positive values.
The Professor of Drama and Theatre-in-Education has successfully used Theatre for counselling of the young ones within and outside the campus. His Pet Projects include the use of Drama for the creation of HIV aids awareness.
Some of his past productions include; Children of Eve directed by Joe Ande and The Shield. The themes usually revolved around abstinence till marriage and faithfulness while married.
Tales by moonlight which is also an example of Theatre-in-Education “was there to train our children towards positive values”, states Oshionebo.
Values of love, honesty and hard work were the core Themes of the program, he says.
Professor Oshionebo stressed the need to support the Theatre Arts profession which he says is a complex profession that includes Media Arts, Dramatic Arts, Dance Arts, Costume, Scenography, theatre management, choreography amongst others.
“The products of Theatre Arts discipline have continued to make meaningful contributions to the society through their creative works. The Nigerian Nollywood industry, a child of Educational Theatre, provides employment opportunities; it has put the country as the third best in the world in filmmaking, after American Hollywood and Indian Bollywood. Dramatists: Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan, Zulu Sofola, Iyorwuese Hagher, Sam Ukala, Tess Owueme and several others have won laurels for Nigeria”.
“We need the support of all stakeholders: government, university administrators, philanthropists and entrepreneurs to provide the enabling environment, with funds, facilities and the right personnel to boost the potentials of educational theatre in the production of manpower needs for the society”, he said.