Theatre and Development:
Opportunities and Challenges in a Developing World
Theatre. National Development. Theatre for Development. Theatre and Development ABSTRACT
This paper is an attempt at espousing the pertinence of theatre in national development, especially in a developing African nation-state like Nigeria. In doing this, the paper identifies and discusses the exploitable opportunities that go along with the deployment of theatre in enhancing national development. The paper concludes that theatre, in whatever form, has a vital role to play towards creating a strong, responsive and effective representative institution and in advancing the frontiers of development in any society, particularly in the African context. INTRODUCTION
Several attempts have been made by theatre
scholars to link theatre and development. Indeed
the attempt to link theatre and the concept of
development whether local, national or global,
has a long history. Presently there exists an ob-
session among theatre and literary scholars to
prove, outside the attempts by great philosophers
like Aristotle and Plato Pupil, that theatre, whether
in the literary or performative form has a contri-
bution to make to the development of the society.
Obafemi (2003) asserts that theatre and develop-
ment has a twin existence. He observes that like
development, theatre ‘derives from source-
people, the community, playing roles and finding
expressions and solutions to life threatening prob-
lems’. It is for that reason that Obafemi contends
that those in search of the link should take a more
cursory view of Shakespeare’s famous charac-
terization of the world as a stage.
But one of the most referenced (earliest) at-
tempt at linking theatre and development is the
explanation offered by the Greek Philosopher
Plato who argued, (as cited in Onukaba-Ojo
2003) that the ‘disposition of citizens has a great
impact on the social, political, economical and
even technological advancement of any society’.
Plato as well as the political philosopher,
Machiavelli further contended that how a coun-
try is perceived in terms of its level of develop-
ment is a function of the character of its citizens,
their civic virtue such as commitment to equality,
justice, freedom, honesty, trust, stability and tol-
erance. Theatre which is viewed in purely instru-
mental or transitive terms as a passage way to
something more desirable, or what Nasidi (2003)
described as ‘something to be pulled beyond its
turf to some promised land-the promised land of
development’, has proven to be very valuable in
raising and nurturing a civic-minded populace
which is necessary for development. Through
songs, dances, music, mimes and dramatic enact-
ments, theatre can be deployed to help people
internalize core values and beliefs that are ger-
mane to development (Nasidi 2003).
In his work on oramedia as part of the tradi-
tional communication system, Ngwainmbi (2004)
identifies the theatre as a useful media for devel-
opment. Ngwainmbi contended that the theatre
serves a social function by educating community
members. Besides, theatre, he argued
conscientizes and mobilizes groups within a so-
ciety because Africa has a rich and vibrant per-
forming tradition. Theatre as he further asserts,
also helps to depict social reality and encourages
audience participation, a reason he maintained
that there exist a strong relationship between
theatre and development.
In order to adequately evaluate the role of
theatre in development, it is vital to understand
the nature of the theatre and the concept of
development. We shall in the section after that
examine a few mediatory efforts of Nigerian
Theatre arts practitioners in the development
© Kamla-Raj 2010 J Communication, 1(2): 107-112 (2010)
NATURE OF THEATRE
In his book
Theatre: An Introduction
(1984) defines theatre as ‘imagination....emo-
tions and intellects... (which)...
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Jeyifo Biodun 1989
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frontmatter. (Retrieved October 26, 2008)
Nasidi Yakubu 2003
Lagos, March 18, 2003.
March 26, 2003.
Edition, 1997. From www.
Jos), Plateau State, November 6 to 8, 1998.
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