Popular theatre in question: The Issue of Sustainability

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University of Dar es Salaam
This study examines the issue of sustainability of Popular Theatre at the grassroots level in the development process after its introduction by theatre ‘experts’, particularly the internalisation, practice, perception and conception of Popular Theatre at the grassroots. The study has established that Popular Theatre is an effective medium of communication that steers socio-economic change in society. It offers a voice to the voiceless and allows a collective understanding of issues in addition to catalysing critical thinking in the people towards socio-economic progress. The study has also established that there are various factors that hinder Popular Theatre from being sustained by the grassroots communities. As Popular Theatre is considered to be a vehicle for liberation, conservative leaders at the grassroots have been in a dilemma as to whether to support it or not, mostly because of fear for change and what it would do for their societies, as Popular Theatre has great potential of making members of the community aware even of things which the leaders would rather were kept from them. They fear such awareness could mean more responsibilities and accountability on their part. The power structures have mostly opted to defend the status quo rather than support the Popular Theatre process, mainly because people’s institutions or structures at the grassroots are too weak, are manned by unskilled cadres who are unassertive and who fail to organise people effectively in the Popular Theatre process. Moreover it has been evidenced that the Popular Theatre animateurs have mainly focused on working with communities to identify and find ways to solve the community problems at the expense of exploring the means through which the people can end up owning the Popular Theatre process. Until now Popular Theatre has remained a methodology utilised only by a few skilled animateurs who have to move into communities and involve people in development-oriented dialogue through the use of theatre. A reversal of role is needed here if Popular Theatre methodology is to be sustained by the grassroots communities, both as development tool and a medium of raising awareness on socio-economic and cultural issues.
Available in print form, East Africana Collection, Dr. Wilbert Chagula Library, Class mark (THS EAF PN2995.8.T34M3)
Popular theatre, Sustainability, grassroots level, medium of communication, critical thinking
Materego, G R (2002), Popular theatre in question: The Issue of Sustainability, Master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam