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National theatre goes digital as Covid19 closes stage curtains

National Theatre Building

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | With the National theatre lying empty, devoid of performers and patrons due to lockdown restrictions, Uganda National Cultural Centre-UNCC has decided to tap into digital resources to allow artists keep alive their talent virtually.       

Robert Musiitwa, the UNCC communications Officer, says that with limited hope of reopening stage performances anytime soon, they have taken a bold decision to adopt to the new normal borrowing a leaf from other players in the entertainment world.  

Musiitwa notes that for starters, they will be setting up a ‘digital stage’ tapping into their archives and legendary past performances, plays, theater, dance, festival and poetry productions featuring star actors and boundary-pushing directors since the grand opening in 1956.

At first, the content will be streamed every Friday at no cost through UNCC’s formal digital platforms including YouTube and Facebook among others with the premier featuring on August 14 at 7:30am.

Besides screening the archived productions, authorities at the National Theatre are also considering starting interactions with key players in the arts and creative industry including but not limited to cultural professionals and artists to better their craft to meet the audience’s expectations.   

Musiitwa notes that through the interactions they intend to generate capacity, train, and support artists, more so the upcoming ones who are most affected by the current situations.   

UNCC also anticipates staging a live online performance for several groups. Even prior to the breakout of Covid19 pandemic, the National Theatre was already struggling to regain its golden days when they used to host student shows and drama clubs among others.   

Tabitha Ameso, an acrobat also known as BiiboTag notes that whereas their counterparts in the music industry have come up with several means of performing, they are lagging behind of lack of knowledge on what to do.  

“The shutdown has hit actors and other performing artists hard by shutting spectators away in isolation. Also, the musicians are figuring out how to adopt to the new situation at high speed, the stage actors are still guessing. now, UNCC idea may at last bring hope. But we are still pessimistic,” says Ameso.   

A few artists have opted for online performances. Some are attracting income from views on different platforms whereas others directly charge individuals who wish to watch what they dubbed home concerts or living-room shows.

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