The National Theatre, one of Ghana’s biggest performance spaces, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as it struggles to catch its breath under a heavy financial burden.
“Though the extent of financial loss remains unclear, We will need to raise more money and not only rely on government funds. We have not made good money since the first quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Isaac Annor, Director of Music, National Symphony Orchestra, the National Theatre, told the Ghana News News Agency.
He said the Theatre was closed as a result of the pandemic and was yet to reopen and operate at full capacity. All programmes organized annually was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Now more than ever before, it is imperative that as a nation, we give support to save our theatre, as it plays crucial roles in the preservation of our arts and culture as Ghanaians, he said.
The Theater’s stage curtains have been drawn and it was now facing an immeasurable period of darkness as it explores innovative ways to access the post COVID-19 daylight.
According to Mr Annor, the various departments of the national theatre thus dance, drama and music had resorted to more innovative methods such as the posting of skits online and touring the country with performances to share the arts with the world.
He said the Theatre in Ghana prior to COVID 19 was not as highly patronized as could be because most Ghanaians found it difficult to pay to watch theatre performances.
According to him, theatre was imbibed in the day to day activities of the typical traditional African setting and it had thus influenced the manner in which Ghanaians perceived and patronized it.
“Thus to say, most Africans, though there are exceptions, have developed an attitude of not paying to watch performances, ” he opined.
Pioneers of modern Ghanaian theatre such as Efua Sutherland and Dr Mohammed Ben Abdallah created a distinct theatre based on the Ghanaian storytelling system. Anansegoro and Abibigoro respectively, are the modern versions of Ghanaian storytelling.
These forms are characterized by more interactive activities such as group singing and dancing as well as high levels of audience participation in the performance.
This makes the nature of Ghanaian theatre in general impermissible to adapt and strive in the face of COVID 19 protocols.
Mr Annor said the National Theatre was assessing how technology and infrastructure at its disposal can be fit into virtual performances.
COVID 19 protocols limit the number of audience that can be admitted in the auditorium, revenue generated from performances cannot cater for the cost of production, he said.
Mr Annor said, “Even though Internally Generated Funds (IGFs) were initially used as remedy for such occurrences, the National Theatre does not generate nearly as much IGFs as it used to, because patronage of the space is severely low in current times.”
He said for the Ghanaian theatre to thrive, there was the need for the reconstruction of the perception of theatre in society, adding, theater’s role in national development could not be emphasized at a better time.