The 14th Jos Festival of Theatre, organised by the Jos Repertory Theatre, opened in the Plateau State Capital on 9 March with Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The production is one of two plays – the other being August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” — sponsored by the US Embassy in Nigeria, which has supported the festival over the years.
The play looks into the lives of two academic couples who get together one evening, and what was meant to be a friendly date turned into a fireball of angsts, tirade, ego trips and jealousy.
“There are a lot of people living on planet earth now who have every reason to be afraid of Virginia Woolf,” says Patrick-Jude Oteh, Artistic Director of the Jos Repertory Theatre, on the choice of the Albee’s play as festival headliner. “They include politicians, opinion moulders, policy makers and even the average person on the street who encourage and act as cheerleaders for certain classes of people.”
The world, he added, is experiencing unprecedented turmoil and Nigeria is not spared. “But the tragedy of our own situation is that we are helpless in addressing our multifarious circumstances,” he said while arguing that the arts can help resolve many of the issues.
“Alas…we have too many people who do not even know or have an idea about the usefulness of the arts and how it can be utilised in a society undergoing a flux,” said Oteh, who has a doctorate in Theatre History from the University of Ibadan. “Art is a peace builder and we know that the average human loves to live in peace. Art creates hope in an atmosphere of hopelessness.”
Other plays scheduled for the six-day festival (Theme: “Building Connectivity”), holding at the premises of Alliance Fracaise, include: Femi Osofisan’s “A Restless Run of Locusts”; Jerry Alagbaoso’s “Let My Husband Be”; and Toyin Oshinaike’s “Was Dis All About”. The festival closes with a performance of Yahaya Dangana’s “The Emir’s Secret”.
The festival has also been supported by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Nigeria.
“The festival has become a landmark in the cultural life of Nigeria,” HE Ambassador Marek Skolil said in his goodwill message. He praised the group “for their dedication to the art of theatre, for their contribution both to the cultural scene in Nigeria and to the inter-cultural dialogue, which brings people and nations together.”
Hon. Ezekiel Gomos (OFR), Chairman of the Plateau State Economic Team, welcomed guests to “the convivial city of Jos” with a clarification: “While it is true that the state has had its fair share of challenges, we are pleased to affirm that it is still an alluring destination for all.”
The Jos Repertory Theatre, a not-for-profit independent theatre organization which seeks to use theatre as a means of confronting critical issues that affect daily existence, turns 20 in November.