Theatre can be defined as a performance for the purpose of entertainment, information, education or communication. The performance can take place either in a building meant for theatrical performances, in the street or market square. “As much as theatre entertains, it also has the capacity to provoke thought or action about significant issues” (Illah, 4). However, Theorists argued that theatre has thrived in the hand of the bourgeois for such a long time. They used it as an instrument of oppression and coercion. This created a class in the society that fostered and aided the oppression of the masses placing theatre in the hands of the privileged few in the society. Be that as it may, dramatists like Arthur Miller began to project the tragic situation of the common man with his work, Tragedy and The Common Man. His theory was further developed by Augusto Boa! who removed theatre from enclosure of conventional stage craft to place it in the hands of the masses. Boat’s treatise is contained in his work, Theatre of the Oppressed. According to Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo, theatre is a weapon and it is the people who should use it. In specific respect to Africa he wrote: “If theatre is going to grow in Africa, it must be fairly based on the lives of the peasants and workers” (6)
Therefore, theatre has evolved over the years to become a communication tool for development. In what is known as Theatre for Development, theatre is part of the process of changing habits, attitudes, values and practices that may be, in some cases no longer relevant. It allows everybody to take part (participation) in an activity (problem) that concerns them (development).
It is in this context therefore, that this study seeks to explore how the theatre is used as a tool for social re-orientation with specific reference to the collaborative work carried out by Youth Adolescent Reflection and Action Centre (YARAC) and Global Rights in central Plateau town of Panyam on voters’ education. Panyam is a community in the central part of Plateau state that is largely indwelled by the Mwaghawul and a Fulani settlement outskirt of the town. The town is a political hub of central Plateau that has illustrious sons and daughters serving in various capacities from the Local Government to the Federal Government. With the various political bigwigs in this community belonging to various political parties, it bred division among the community along the lines of political interests. It also helps the politicians to rig during the election. The Global Rights/YARAC project sought to address the issue of the voters protecting their votes during election.
1 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The aims of this study are as follows:
To study the concept of Theatre for Development (TfD) as employed in the re-orientation of the Plateau central people towards proper conduct during elections by Global Rights & YARAC.
To examine the process of intervention that ensures the success of the project.
To ascertain the factors identified and issues addressed in the Voters’ education project.
To examine the factors that guaranteed the success of the project.
PROBLEM OF THE STUDY
As effective as Theatre for Development is, it has been a tool only in the hands of a few Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and University students, probably because they must offer the course as a pre-requisite to receiving a degree in Theatre Arts. However, there are issues that confront the use of this medium such as methodology, poor funding, low social consciousness and lack of effective monitoring and evaluation strategy for sustainability of any development achieved. The questions that we should seek the answers to here are firstly, why were the electorates denied their rights at the poll? Secondly, what is the effect of the stolen mandates on the community? And finally, how effective is TfD as development communication tool in Panyam? This work is to examine how the use of Theatre for Development raised the people’s consciousness and empowered them to take action against their political oppressors.
RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY
The practice of theatre as a development communication has contributed to the field of theatre studies as well as being a useful means of raising people’s awareness about issues of concern. What remains to be explored exhaustively might be the extent to which this tool can be deplored in a complex critical situation. YARAC/Global Rights were confronted with this situation in Panyam and it helps to assess the efficacy of TfD in changing people’s behavioural pattern.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
As Theatre for Development gains relevance in Nigeria, more studies are required to document best practices. This work is one of such study that will be added to the scholastic endeavour in the area of Theatre for Development. The documentation of this best practice will contribute to the growing method of Theatre for Development in terms of methodology, processes, and other factors responsible for the success of the project under study. Significant issues affecting the practice of TfD will also be examined to decipher possible solutions that will help practitioners in this field.
Most forms of dramatic presentation over the ages have been in consonance with the ideals of construction expounded by Aristotle in the Poetics until Augusto Boal began to talk about Actor – spectators relationship which is basically about the integration between the two. As TfD employs this method, new lessons are emerging about the relationship between these two groups in the field of drama. More of the lessons learnt during the Global/YARAC projects will further help scholars to glean from the effect, impact and challenges associated with this method of acting. This may perhaps help in developing new theories of acting where amateurs are the cast and crew in communicating to their kinsmen what professionals were hitherto doing. Also, this study will examine the overall goal of the project and how it was achieved through this method. This hopefully will help other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) employing this strategy to successfully communicate their ideas.
DELIMITATION/ SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study covers Panyam in the central part of Plateau State. The findings are restricted to the concept, context and practice of Theatre for Development in Nigeria. Relevant scholastic materials related to TfD in Nigeria are reviewed. The special focus of this study is Theatre for Development and its relevance to social re-orientation using the example of the voters’ education orientation implemented in Panyam, Plateau State, Nigeria.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
In the process of this study, the researcher encountered some challenges that restricted the outcome of this study. Some of these issues are; (1) Finances- due to the distant of the place of study, more visits to Panyam was not possible due to inadequate finances for transportation, lodging and other logistics. (2) Time- time became a serious factor that limited the findings because almost a generation has passed between the period this project was implemented and the time of this study. This reduced the number of people that could provide superfluous feedback on the project. (3) Upheaval in Plateau state- the persisted crisis on the plateau limited the visits of the researcher to the project community.