Brenda Phiri Entertainment Reporter
Local writers are set to benefit from the ongoing African Playwrights Festival that has been running from May 11 at the Zimbabwe German Society.
The festival that is a brain child of Almasi, a Zimbabwean-American drama arts organisation, is likely to sharpen local writers’ artistic skills. It ends on May 23.
The organisers have roped in the services of renowned artistic director of Ojai Playwrights Festival (US), Robert Egan.
Together with the international director, the team is working with over 30 artistes, among them playwrights, actors and directors.
“This unique venture is aimed at developing Zimbabwean dramatic writing talent and will see playwrights working under the direction of Robert to further develop their plays into globally viable theatre productions,” said Almasi representative Marylynn Gwatira.
The organisers said they were considering taking the festival to other cities as it grew.
Gwatira expressed enthusiasm in the initiative that is empowering Zimbabwean writers to be competitive internationally.
“There is a dearth of Zimbabwean dramatic writers and this festival is going step by step to equip local writers with the right skills to adequately tell Zimbabwean stories,” she said.
Egan on the other hand was excited about the festival saying while he has been in the trade for 35 years, it was an opportunity for him to learn.
He indicated that he has had somewhat the same experience from working in Los Angeles where he was tasked to work with a diverse community.
Besides the iconic Hollywood, Los Angeles is famed as the centre of United States’ film and television industry.
“I worked at the biggest theatre company in LA for 20 years. The city is diverse and has different communities.
My job was to make sure that their writers were able to tell their stories and include all the people’s voices.
So I worked with the various writers to make it happen. Working here now is similar as this is a different community altogether,” he said.
Egan, who is here on the invitation of Almasi co-founder and Hollywood actress and writer Danai Gurira added that there was need to inspire writers to believe in writing again.
“We have to inspire people to believe in their hearts and mind. Writing is extremely important because it enriches people’s souls,” he said
The writers are currently taking lessons with the programme indicating there would be a panel discussion on May 22 under the topic “Zimbabwean Dramatic Writing; Is it Dead?”
Free staged readings will follow on May 22 and 23. These will feature the likes of theatre writer and poet Zaza Muchemwa, scriptwriter Gideon Wabvuta, and author Thandiwe Nyamasvisva.
The writer who will emerge the best after the festival will get the opportunity to travel to the US for the Ojai Playwrights Festival.