A study of nigerian dramatist ola rotimi

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Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi better known as Ola Rotimi Nigerian dramatist, director and professor was born April 13, 1938 to an Ijaw mother Dorcas Oruene (a dancer) from Nembe in Eastern Nigeria and a Yoruba father Samuel Enitan (a steam-launch engineer of Western Nigeria. The youngest of three children, Olawale, attended St. Cyprians School in Port Harcourt from 1945 to 1949, St Jude's School, Lagos from 1951 to 1952 and the Methodist Boys High School in the then capital city of Lagos from 1952 to 1956, earning the nicknames "Shakespeare incarnate" and "the Poet" for his writing.He grew up amidst the arts learning four of the three hundred full-blown languages spoken in Nigeria, as well as English, the official and administrative language of the country.Ola's mother who excelled in traditional dance, managed her own dance group from 1945 to 1949.

His father often wrote and recited poems. He also organized the community theater in Port Harcourt where his son, Ola, grew up. Ola's uncle, Chief Robert Dede, was the lead performer in a traditional dance troupe. Dede and his dancers, dressed in elaborate costumes, danced, sang, and acted in what was one of the most spectacular of such troupes, more often called masquerades, in Rivers State.Ola first appeared on stage when he was only four years of age in 1942 in a play directed and produced by his father.

For the next 58 years, Rotimi lived on the stage, across the world, with steadfastness, devotion, commitment and zest..believing "in the redemptive and transformatory power of theatre in a society in a dire need for social and spiritual regeneration." Some of his works were broadcast on Nigerian radio and published in institutional magazines.Being among three Nigerians awarded scholarships to study theatre abroad, Ola Rotimi, travelled to the United States in 1959. He studied at Boston University earning a B.A. in fine arts in 1963 and attended the Yale School of Drama (M.F.A., 1966), concentrating on playwrighting as a major, supported by a Rockefeller Fellowship.

He learned much about dramaturgy.He was active in the African Students Union at Boston University, serving as its president, and actively engaging in protests against colonialism and in favor of African nationalisms.Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again his outstanding comedy about African politics was written in America, with a literal African-American character in October and November of 1965, with considerable rewriting during rehearsals in New Haven and again after the play's first Nigerian performance in September, 1966 at the University of Ife.This play had roots in Rotimi's own domestic situation in New Haven in 1965, as he had recently married Hazel Mae Gaudreau, a (white) French Canadian student at Yale with whom he bore four children: Enitan, Oruene (daughter), Biodun, Kole thus.making the problems inherent in a cross-cultural marriage influence his subconscious to find expression in aspects of the play, his ultimate goal being to laugh at the many political charlatans, in Africa. Liza born in Kenya, met Lejoka-Brown in Congo but has lived much of her life in the United States, which has shaped her world view.

At Yale the play directed by Jack Landau won the Student Play of the Year Award for 1966.Cultural diversity was a recurring theme in his plays as he often examined Nigeria's history and ethnic traditions. His first plays To Stir the God of Iron (produced 1963) was staged at the drama school of Boston University. His very successful and popular production in 1968 of his adaptation of Sophocles' tragic play Oedipus Rex, The Gods Are Not to Blame ( published 1971) in imaginative verse retells the story of Oedipus the King to address contemporary issues in Africa and the world whilst making ample use of traditional Yoruba proverbs and idiomatic expressions translated to English, it sharply warns people to take responsibility for what is happening to them, rather than blaming everything on forces beyond their control.

The play is studied widely in schools in Africa,The interplay between the Greek and the Yoruba traditions, are reflected in the work. "Sophocles explores the tragic fate of a man destined by the gods to kill his father and marry his mother. In Greek mythology, whatever the gods decree must come to pass whereas in the African mythology explored by Rotimi, ways exist to appeal to the gods to avert such horrifying experiences.His later dramas include some of the most noted classics on the Nigerian stage; Cast the first Stone (1966) Kurunmi and the Prodigal (produced 1969; published as Kurunmi, 1971), written for the second Ife Festival of Arts; Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (produced 1971; published 1974), about the last ruler of the Benin empire; Holding Talks (1979, If: A Tragedy of the Ruled (1979) (1983), Hopes of the Living Dead (1988), which premiered at the University of Port Harcourt and was a common play in the OAU Drama department,.the radio play Everyone His/Her Own Problem which was broadcast in 1987. and When the Criminals Become Judges (1995)One of the most significant African playwrights, his dramatic works have been performed in Europe and Africa and are being studied in European and American universities in African studies programs as well as throughout Africa.He has also published short stories and critical articles on African theater.

His book African Dramatic Literature: To Be or to Become? was published in 1991.Upon his return to Nigeria, in 1966, he taught at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Port Harcourt. Partly due to political conditions in Nigeria, he spent much of the 1990s living in the Caribbean and the United States, where from 1995 to 1997 he was the Hubert H. Humphrey Visiting Professor of International Studies and Dramatic Arts and Dance at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has also served as visiting professor, playwright, and director in Germany and Italy, as well as at DePauw University and Wabash University.

In 2000 he returned to Ile-Ife, joining the faculty of Obafemi Awolowo University where he lectured till his demise. Hazel (his wife) died only a couple of months before in May 2000.While in University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, he brought the school theatre to such great heights that when he left for Obafemi Awolowo University, his mark of excellence in its Theatre Arts department continued, with the school producing aspiring and budding young stars in the movies industry in Nigeria. Rotimi has taken many works directly to the people with the University of Ife Theatre, a repertory company that performs works in Yoruba, Nigerian pidgin, and English.The second half of his last creative decade Rotimi spent reworking two of his comical plays: Man talk, Woman talk which was his last production staged at the French Institute in Lagos, Nigeria.and Tororo, Tororo, Roro a play of the Absurd he produced as a convocation play.

Both were probably meant to be an epilogue to both his entire theatrical and comic careers.. Tororo, Tororo, Roro a coincidental meeting of Tunji Oginni and Philomena James both running Hotel Kilimanjaro with different motives and a chance meeting by both of them eliciting lessons as both share each other's problems in a version of 'Nigerian English.Man talk, Woman talk making use of wry humour seeks a level playing ground for resolution of the biases men and women nurse about one another and which affect their mutual co-existence. The scene is a court though devoid of the usual technicalities of court rooms.

Instead of legal jargon, there is humor, arguments and counter arguments. A great deal of wit is in the work set in the university environment where the youthful contenders are idealistic.These social satires, yet unpublished at the time of his death in 2002, have now been published under the title, The Epilogue.Rotimi though diminutive in size was a giant in drama in Africa and a model in the literary genre whose views have shaped the conduct of the theater. He.has through his plays demonstrated the power of drama to shape the thinking of the society and to solve some of the problems encountered in everyday living..

He has left his foot print as a pioneer of the theatre in English, most especially through the bridge he created between the popular Yoruba theatre and the English theatre. His importunate conviction of the curative and redeeming power of the arts and the theatre, made him finally return to Nigeria to resume his theatre practice and scholarship." He has "removed African history from the pages of books written by the coloniser, fused it with oral history and made it part of our lives."

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