Ghanaian theatre needs support systems

BY: Kobina Ansah
Ghanaian theatre needs support systems

A few minutes past midnight.

On my PC is a new script of a play.

On my table are scraps of strategies; sales and marketing.

In my bin are rejected sponsorship proposals.

Cluttered on my mind are so many Goliaths that will need to be defeated with my little resources to have my script be a reality on stage.


And… this is the typical life of every Ghanaian playwright!

The fate of the Ghanaian theatre industry is wobbly, frankly speaking.

Play writing/production is one dangerous career path to embark on.

You may live all your life in penury with broken dreams and a red account because there are no systems to help one absorb shock when they fall.

Modern Ghanaian theatre can be a driving force of tourism and development if proper structures are put in place to make the National Theatre and all the cultural centres busy all year through.

When the appropriate ministries lend a hand to create a favourable environment for production houses to produce local content all year long, unemployment rate will be cut down significantly.

Seed grows well not just because it is viable but because it has the best conditions. If we desire our local content to go global, it hinges on favourable conditions — conditions that will inspire creatives to call what they do a fulfilling career.

A Ghana beyond aid is a Ghana that creates a favourable environment that makes every career paid.

The Dark Knights, Lion Kings and Hamiltons have raked in millions of dollars across the globe because structures were in place for such creative pieces to travel beyond the borders of their origin.

Mind you, these are local content gone global.

Where there are theatre support systems, the output of production houses is boosted.

Theatre is expensive — very expensive.

It can cost an arm and leg to put a quality play together — from tedious rehearsals to publicity.

Without good investment, there will be no good returns.

When production costs are left to be borne by a playwright-turned-producer alone, the future of this industry becomes bleak.

In the absence of the requisite structures for playwrights to stand, theatre will fall.

The production process for a play starts with getting one’s script ready and then copyrighting it.

One has to put together his production team which will include his cast, crew and others who will provide related services.

After the production team has been assembled, rehearsal starts.

This can span for, at least, three months depending on the frequency and length of meetings.

Within the three or more months of rehearsal, publicity and sales/marketing plans are strategised.

Communication tools and branding strategies are also put in place within this same period.

Before such is reached, however, a venue should have already been booked.

A production team can contain as many as 100 members depending on the cast size.

Large cast sizes oftentimes bloat production budget. The larger the cast size, the more one has to spend on their rehearsals, transportation and honorarium.

The less one spends on publicity, for instance, the more likely it may be that no one will get to know of the production.

TV/radio/newspaper and social media budget alone can cost thousands of Ghana cedis for only a month-long publicity. And…that is expensive!

Crew includes personnel who will provide light, sound (PA system) and band (if it is a musical).

Other crew members are costumiers, props managers, set designers, makeup artists, stage managers among others.

One production, thus, brings together a lot of hands!
Per quality production at National Theatre, one needs a whopping, standing budget of between GH¢40,000-100,000, if not more.

In the absence of corporate and governmental support, it is almost impossible to break even.

Imagine how many GH¢50 worth tickets you may have to sell to make up for a GH¢50,000 production cost.

Contemporary Ghanaian theatre has a great future… but not in the absence of support structures like corporate sponsorships and subsidised cost of venues like National Theatre.

Availability of a theatre fund to help producers mitigate their losses will also be in the right direction.

When there are alternate loss “shock absorbers”, it lessens the burden on production houses.

Ghanaian theatre can be a self-sustaining industry.

It can be a wealth-generating and tourist-attracting industry if we begin investing therein. When there are no supporting structures for talents, creativity dies.
It is possible to have our local content make a hit on Broadway. It is possible to have Ghanaian producers patent their innovations and inventions which can be used across the world.

It is very possible to have thousands of youth get employed by our theatre and production houses.

It is possible to earn a decent living carving a career out of theatre.

While we wait for support, let’s brand ourselves to look like a business that means business!