Coronavirus is kiss of death—Uncle Ebo Whyte

BY: Francis Osabutey
Uncle Ebo Whyte says coronavirus is kiss of death
Uncle Ebo Whyte

WE are not in normal times indeed because if we were, around this time, playwright Uncle Ebo Whyte and his Roverman Productions would have been making the rounds promoting their play for the second quarter of this year.

Now because of the coronavirus pandemic and a ban on public gatherings, Uncle Ebo is rather grappling with an anticipated loss of revenue because he will not be able to stage the play.

In an interview with Graphic Showbiz, he said the coronavirus had impacted every sector of the economy and was like a kiss of death for the theatre industry.

“This particular virus is new, no one has the answer to it. In fact, for months, the world did not know what we were dealing with until the rate of infections kept increasing exponentially and then the wisdom at the time was to let people keep social distance from each other and then eventually to close borders and lock everything down.

“For us in the live-theatre industry, the coronavirus pandemic is almost a kiss of death. In the first place, the sector was still struggling to find its feet. Secondly, our business depends on bringing people together; the more people we can bring together, the better.

“Then you are confronted with a pandemic against which social distancing seems to be the recommended temporary solution.

"Put that against the nature of the live-theatre business and you will understand that the disruption to our business is total. With social distancing, even rehearsals cannot take place.

“Our second quarter play was to have premiered in May 2020 at the National Theatre. For that to happen, it means rehearsals should have started about a week ago.

"Even with the lockdown lifted, social distancing protocols make rehearsals unadvisable. So, as things stand now, it is difficult to contemplate a second quarter production,” he stated.

Uncle Ebo also disclosed that he had missed out on other opportunities all because of coronavirus citing example when asked to quantify the impact on his business.

“At the time the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, announced the lockdown of parts of Ghana, we were about to sign a three-city tour with a major sponsor with one of our plays.

“The tour was for April and May, of course, it had to be cancelled. So, if you ask me to quantify the impact, all I can say for now is that we are now down to zero income while expenses such as salaries and rent have to be met,” he said.

The renowned playwright said although on a personal level, he had some anxiety about everything that was going on, he still had a lot of faith in God.

“I am a writer and so I spent the period of the lockdown in my study working on as many projects as I could. So, in that respect, it was not that bad.

“However, I am not just a writer but an employer with a number of permanent staff members, a father and a grandfather, a brother, and an uncle with many nephews and nieces and the burden of being anxious about every one of these people is enormous.

“In addition to that, I am a leader of many people and I carry the weight of making sure they are keeping safe and keeping their spirits up during this time.  And it is never a good sign when salaries have to be paid, rent has to be paid, expenses have to be made and yet there is no income coming in.

“You dig into your reserves but that is not inexhaustible. So I am dealing with a fair bit of anxiety but I don’t allow that to keep me down. I set against that my faith in God and I affirm over and over: ‘This too shall pass’,” he revealed.

While it looks like it is all doom and gloom, Uncle Ebo said the pandemic was sure to bring out the ingenuity of not just Roverman Productions but the creative industry in general.

“The important thing to note about the creative industry is in the name, creative. I have no doubt that we will live up to our name and be creative in finding ways of reaching our audiences no matter the challenges.

“For now, all I can say is that God should have mercy on us all and spare our lives through this pandemic,” he stated.