BROADLY speaking, schools are places where upcomimg artists hone their skills.
At the moment, most schools are preparing for the forthcoming National Schools Arts Association of Zambia (NASAAZ) national festival set for Southern Province between July and August.
My stringer in Nakonde, Nestory Matipa told me during the week that the Muchinga provincial School Arts Association of Zambia (SAAZ) had a successful festival that was held at Isoka Boys Secondary School.
Nestory said there was a good representation from Mpika, Nakonde, Mafinga and Chinsali districts even though Shiwang’andu had no representation due to unforeseen circumstances.
However, Nestory admitted that the festival was well organised.
In my view, NASAAZ is taking its programmes seriously with every corner of Zambia making attempts to start up something in drama and other activities of a theatrical nature.
The NASAAZ top leadership lead by the Ndola-based David Asumani should be extolled for a job well done. The inclusion of fine art to the list of contested for activities is admirably uplifting.
Asumani, a close friend of mine has vast experiences in theatrical and administrative skills – with his team, he has largely sorted out the mess that earlier engulfed his association; I am talking about how wonderful it has become today for the ministry of General Education to fully recognise and sponsor the creative industry among school pupils girls unlike previously when emphasis was more on sports.
Well done David, and thumbs up to the Ministry of General Education though there is much more to be done at district level where schools still have teething problems in running school drama and other cultural clubs.
Despite the good works going on in districts with festivals being organised, let me throw some light on particularly the school drama clubs, and how I feel these should be run.
School drama clubs play an important role in moulding the character of the pupils as they go into adulthood.
The good behaviour of some people is not accidental. It is planned. It is as a result of continually monitoring the good tenets as they grow up.
Drama is one such activity that helps one to grow up with confidence.
Drama clubs should be run as character manufacturers and the teachers should play a pivotal role in this area.
It is the teachers with the help of pupils who should select the type of play suited to the school and pupils. A play that morally has a lesson at the end.
Once a play is selected, the teachers are expected to audition by giving out parts to the pupils to follow by group sessions of reading the play.
During this time, the patron or matron will explain the theme, essentially guiding the characters-to-be on the expected behaviour of each role.
Apparently, the young actors would have already started guesstimating their imitations, imagining their assumed roles.
Given the lines to memorise, and once through, the teacher who should be well versatile with rudiments of drama should begin to direct the play or basically invite someone else to help direct the play. It is the director who will play a major guiding role and inspire the actors to achieve greater heights.
Once the play is presumed ready for performance; there should generally be one such performance where invitations should be sent out for other teachers including administrators to watch, and critically look at the play.
During this time called dress rehearsal, the actors should dress up in their roles, and exhibit a seemingly final performance which should be followed up by public performances to the rest of the school and other places.
The director should be taken to task for all the wrong concepts of the play, this is the same reason the director should take pride in his or her actors once they excel in their performances.
Sadly, majority of the schools countrywide are staging plays purposefully for the NASAAZ festivals. Once the festivals are over, the drama club in the school ‘dies’ too until the following year before the festival.
This is unfortunate as drama clubs play not only an entertaining role in the school, but educative one.
It’s the drama club in the school that would do well to sensitise members of the school community on areas of concern; HIV AIDS, cholera, malaria and other forms of correctional behaviours.
Sadly again, it is the schools’ patrons and matrons to blame for the bad behaviours of their drama club members, especially after they have not made it into the winning streaks during festivals.
I have witnessed sad incidents of pupils throwing stones at adjudicators for not making them win.
However, the teacher in charge of the drama club needs to have the interest at heart, generally, historically with a background that entails his or her involvement in drama at one point.
This will effectively help the teacher to guide his or her members with passion, commitment, enthusiasm and delight.
A drama club patron or matron who lacks the passion will certainly not succeed, and will always be talking about allowances before getting involved. This is happening in some schools, and sad indeed.
What should then the head teacher do? In my opinion, he or she should sit the staff down and request for those with the passion, and avoid talking about allowances!
What about parents, what is their role to their children who are members of the drama club in the school?
Like in all other school activities, parents should be supportive, and help provide costume and other props so long the schools requests for these in good time.
It is possible that for successful school drama clubs, parents have greatly uplifted their schools and their children as they have done with school projects.
Running the drama club precisely would be the same as running any other club such as the cultural and traditional club; the poetry club and similar activities in the school.
Schools being broad, hopeful institutions for upcoming theatre artists; they should be supported by everyone; the business community included.
Therefore, as district and provincial festivals are being organised in the various schools, let everyone get concerned and support.
Meantime, there is word that Barefeet have set two days of performances in Lusaka and Kitwe.
The play which is in commemoration of the British playwright William Shakespeare will be staged on April 16 at Nkana-Kitwe Arts Society, while the Lusaka show has not yet been set.
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