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1.1       Background of the Study:

At the earliest existence of human beings, they found themselves challenged by an environment which they could not understand. They needed food to quench their hunger and shelter to protect them from the harshness of the weather. For food, they tried out fruits, lesser animals and other things found edible. They used caves as shelter. They needed to move about but materials for such were not readily available anywhere. When the need to build shelter and grow food arose, there were no tools to carry out the projects. The stones were too heavy, iron tools were needed to till the soil or kill animals. They had to break the stones or get sticks out of branches. The people used communal, collective efforts and labour to break the stones, sticks and sharpen them.

When men began to indulge in this collective labour, their hand movement, their strokes on wood or stone were complemented by vocal sounds (grunts). From these actions rhythm and dance which are speech and movement were born. At their leisure time as they rested at the end of the day after the labour, the men cheered themselves by re-enacting their experiences. Soon they found the exercise effective in teaching the young ones and in addressing issues of concern to themselves. The practice survived and became enlarged taking on other issues that posed difficulties to the community. Theatre has been around since people first gathered to listen to someone else tell a story. The interaction and sharing of ideas, information, communication etc. between a live actor and a live audience remains just as it ever was. Rabindranate Manukonda supports this view when he states that, “Theatre is one of the oldest ways of effective communication methods across the world” (1).

Before now theatre was seen as activity meant for just entertainment, to amuse people, to while away time during leisure hours without the understanding of the intellectual and ideological role it plays in human society. Chiduo Obadiegwu rightly observes that, “For many decades theatre has been pursued as an extracurricular activity in most countries of the world’’ (ix). Obadiegwu goes on to point out that people never thought of theatre as serving any socio –political and cultural purposes of developing man mentally and physically. People never saw theatre as an instrument of development and change. But he notes that the understanding of the new role of theatre in our modern society has given birth to an alternative theatrics for human development in recent years. He remarks that the alternative theatrics is widely known as Community theatre, Popular theatre, or Theatre for Development (TfD). Community or Popular or Theatre for Development is empirical in nature against western theatrics as prescribed by Aristotle (ix). It becomes clear that Theatre for Development is taking theatre back to where it belongs and where it all began among the people. Therefore, TfD is a re-birth of the theatre that is known for interaction and participation among the community members which brings about solution to the problems that confront them.

The origin of Theatre for Development as a concept is often traced to Paulo Freire’s conception that development should not be given but made to evolve from the communal action and reflection by the entire membership of the community (97). Community theatre for development in its earliest forms conformed to the nature of formal education. Community theatre like formal education at that time was a banking system in which the performers or teachers deposited knowledge into empty heads (the audience or students). The great Brazillian educationist Freire who had influence on the Brazillian education curriculum decried this banking system of education in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed and advocated for an education system (Problem-posing education) in which education will begin and happen within the people and their culture (71 – 86). Augusto Boal, a Brazillian who was a theatre director and critic, translated Freire’s concept into theatre in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. He sees in Community Theatre a situation where the people are the creators and actors of the drama instead of being passive audience (134 – 135). He advocates for the intervention of the spectators during theatre performance, thus making them ‘spect-actors’. The use of theatre in participatory work with adults is becoming widespread. Building on the work of Boal, theatre activities are being used with community groups to identify problems, analyze their causes and consequences, explore and rehearse solutions and evaluate change. Community Theatre ensures that communities are active participants, not passive recipients of information. This encourages community ownership and participation and helps in the exploration of the root causes of practices that increase risk or harm. Illah in Obadiegwu explains Community Theatre as a constellation of various theatre practices including theatre for development, popular theatre, forum theatre, political theatre, radical theatre, participatory theatre, guerrilla theatre, street theatre and others. It is a broad spectrum (x). It is an instrument of social change within the framework of development approaches. It is related to development much more than to theatre just as Egwugwu Illah puts it, “Theatre for development (TfD) has always been concerned about the problems of poverty, development and underdevelopment’’ (7). For a long time, community theatre has been seen as a relatively inexpensive educational tool involving local people as performers. It transcends the problem of illiteracy by using the language of the people to deal with the local problems and situations with which everyone can identify. Rabindranath believes that theatre for development has the potential to change people’s mentality and behaviour and declares that theatre would not only change people’s behaviour but also give them hope for brilliant and secured future (6). Again, theatre for development is an effective method of creating awareness on issues like health, family planning, adolescent issues, social evil practices among other sand therefore plays a key role in community education and development. It is a non-confrontational way of addressing problems. Ngozi Ekwunife states that:

Theatre for development provides a space for change to take form in a playful, safe and facilitated way and the various problems of the people as they move through their lives can be examined through it as it has many attributes ranging from empowerment, emancipation, informing and educating various communities towards complete change (223).

1.2       Statement of Problem:

Community theatre in many communities encounters certain challenges like poor participation on the side of the community members. This research, therefore, seeks to discover the possible cause(s) of this problem of poor community participation and suggest likely solutions to the problem. Communal and participatory efforts are essentially treasured in the practice of theatre for development in Nigeria. Community theatre for development cannot succeed without voluntary participation of the community members. In community theatre project held at Lejja in Nsukka Local Government Area, it was hard if not impossible to get the community members involved in spite all efforts made and the application of community theatre methodology known to the practitioners. In another community theatre project in Unadu, a community in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area, the researcher discovered the same problem of poor participation of community members, to get the host community members to participate in the programme was a herculean task.

1.3       Research Questions:

According to Norbert Eze,“An authentic research addresses significant questions concerning the problem(s) that necessitate the study” (10). Therefore, the questions to be addressed in the course of this research work are:

  1. Why were the members of Lejja community indifferent to the community theatre programme conducted in the town?
  2. What were the causes of the community members’ poor participation in the community theatre programme in Unadu?
  3. What were the challenges that community theatre project encountered during the programme in the communities under study?

1.4       Aim and Objectives of the Study:

Due to the level of poor reception of the community theatre programme by some communities in Enugu North Senatorial Zone, the researcher is motivated to delve into the likely root causes of the community members’ indifference to the theatre for development programme which is a vital tool for social, material and political development of a community. Specifically, the study was intended to:

  1. find out why the members of Lejja community were indifferent to the community theatre
  2. discover the causes of poor participation in the project among members of Unadu community.
  3. find out the challenges encountered during the community theatre projects in Lejja and Unadu.

  1.5         Significance of the Study:

The process of theatre for development is that of returning theatre from the minority elite to the original owners (the masses). It is the democratic process of allowing the people determine how they want to have what they need within the context of the social order. In the light of this, the study will be of immense value for the Department of Theatre and Film Studies (TFS) in particular and the University community in general. It will enable them to utilize this development communication strategy to affect the social development of the communities around this great University. The project work will also be significant, since the TfD practitioners would understand the culture of the community members and be able to carry them along for a successful development enterprise.

1.6     Scope of the Study:

This study covers two communities under Enugu North senatorial zone in Enugu State where community theatre workshops have been carried out. The communities involved are Lejja in Nsukka Local Government Area and Unadu in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area. The study attempts to evaluate the concept and methodology of theatre for development applied during the community theatre project. The study will also seek to identify the challenges encountered in the communities in question and proffer solutions to the challenges.


1.7   Research Methodology:

For the purpose of this study, the researcher employed three methodologies viz: literary, historical and sociological methods of data collection.

Literary method is the analytical approach in sourcing for materials which depends on written and printed library materials such as books, journals, reports, thesis and many others. The researcher gained more knowledge and understanding about the already existing works related to the topic from the data obtained from these materials.

Historical method is the technique of gathering information from reports, periodicals, documented journals, books and others. Ukala declared that historical method is employed to establish facts and occurrences in specific places and periods (12). The researcher used materials like books reports and magazines to source information on the historical background of the communities visited. Again, this method helped the researcher in the proper analysis of the project under study.

Sociological methodology deals with how conversant the researcher is with the communities under study and their members. In this study, interaction techniques like observation, participants-observation and oral interview were employed in other to concretize the data gathered. The researcher observed and participated fully in the projects and personally conducted the follow-up. The Modern languages Association (MLA) documentation style was utilized.



1.8       Theoretical Framework:

The research will be guided by the theories of voluntary participation and cultural approach to the Theatre for Development practices. The conventional theatre practice which is a form of media is undemocratic as it does not allow for the participation of the audience. Boafo Kwame observes that:

Communication patterns and processes in African societies are basically synchronic: patterns and processes in which a few people transmit information to the majority of the people who have minimal or no participation in information generation and dissemination (1).

Paulo Freire a Brazilian educationist decried this kind of communication which he called ‘banking-system’ of education and introduced problem posing education which leads to critical awareness. Participation in Freire’s term means total involvement even at the level of conceptualizing the vehicle of articulation (Mda 13). Freire’s theory centres on liberation and active participation of the students in any learning environment in which education will begin and happen within the people and their culture (71 – 86). This is where theatre for development derives its participatory form that has ensured its success. This people centred approach was later adopted by Augusto Boal (Brazilian theatre practitioner) who translated Freire’s concept into theatre in his Theatre of the Oppressed. He sees in community theatre or theatre for development a situation where the people are the creators and actors of the drama instead of being passive audience (134 – 135).  Mda sees the issue of genuine participation as one of the problems besetting community theatre. He starts by defining community theatre as theatre which emanates from the community audience. He further argues that for theatre to work effectively as a participatory approach there is need for full participation of the community in the whole process, from the beginning to the end. Therefore, community theatre cannot succeed without voluntary participation of the community members. The theatre must not be imposed on the community.

Another issue to highlight in this work is the use of the cultural approach to intervene in social development matters. If there is a better approach in looking into issues like social development of a people, it is the cultural approach. Daryl Somma and Clandia Bodiany define culture as:

One of the many factors influencing human behaviour, it is a determinant of socially accepted behaviour, value systems, beliefs and practical knowledge. It is a means of expression or communication such as music, theatre and art. Culture in the broader sense includes also traditions, and local practices, taboos, religious affiliations, gender roles, marriage and kinship patterns and so forth (5).

This argument shows that culture is deeply rooted in all aspects of  society, therefore in using culture as an approach to tackle community issues and problems, one is sure of greater efficiency and sustainability. Emem asserts that,‘‘The TfD or popular theatre approach uses the people’s culture as a reference point upon which to build the framework and design and implement programmes which will be participatory in nature to foster community ownership and control’’(55).

The major problem with the theatre as a mode of communication that is devoid of voluntary community participation and the people’s culture is the fact that the development projects cannot be sustained. There have been cases of communities not carrying on with the projects brought by development workers because the projects were imposed on the people. In the case of Lejja, the community could not carry on with the issue of development raised, not necessarily because the project was imposed on them but because of their individualistic way of life that hindered them from believing in the community theatre experiment and thereby withdrew their voluntary participation