Harare, June 19th 2015 | Gideon Jeph Wabvuta
The nature of the Zimbabwean dramatic arts industry has always been about a bunch of people with a lot of heart and passion struggling their way through and learning through their numerous failures. There are very limited places where one can go and learn about the craft they hope to hone. So when an opportunity to learn from the world’s best presents itself it ceases to be about the individual playwright who is going to be in the workshop but the countless people who are going to benefit from that work. It becomes a case of the whole industry standing up and saying YES, that piece of work was honed and that was astounding.
Zimbabweans are storytellers and they do have numerous stories to tell but what’s missing is the people to help develop them into world class plays. When I was invited to be part of the African Playwrights festival I was so thrilled and I had my expectations. What fascinated me is how I grew as a writer and managed to access skill in me that I had no idea existed. Robert Egan moved me from what he likes to call level 1 writing to a higher level. I read my work now and I wonder how I got there. Normally (in Zim) one does not go through this collaborative process with a director, actors and a dramaturge. It’s usually a writer in a room and then the next thing it’s onstage. I had no idea how important this developmental process is, and now I don’t think I can get a piece of work produced without this process.
One major lesson I got from the festival was the need to listen to a dramaturge and make sense of what he is saying. I personally struggled as there were certain elements of my stories that I thought were concrete and weren’t subject to change and or discussion. The process in which Robert took me through enlightened me and the ‘concrete elements’ became not so concrete. Robert was so insistent on a character driven story versus an event driven one. This saw me rethink all my characters and how I could deepen them and in turn make every speech motivated. It was a fun experience getting to discover new things about my abilities as a writer.
I have come to understand the need of a writer/director collaboration and how it has the ability to enhance a production. I noticed this when we were in rehearsal; when the director didn’t understand or wanted clarification I would be there to clarify. The collaboration was just amazing especially with the actors as they were quick to note any discrepancies and also give their input. This was an amazing experience which I feel should go on and on as many writers should benefit from this.
Thank you Almasi for this amazing experience.