By Dr Folakemi Ogungbe
ISRAEL WEKPE AND ISRAEL EBOH COLLABORATE ON PROJECT TEA: ENTERPRISE OF ACTING
Project TEA: The Enterprise of Acting is as rich and diverse as “tea” in the Nigerian parlance. In Nigerian street culture, coffee, tea and cocoa beverages are all other similar products are considered as tea, as long as you add hot water, milk and sugar! The Enterprise of Acting, a project by Israel Wekpe and Israel Eboh, is targeting the young people to provide them with the skills and competencies in the theatre with special attention on actor/performer training and business management that will allow for human capital and capacity building in the Nigerian creative sector. This enables the sustainability as well as the growth and development of the creative sector in Nigeria.
The project will involve a weekly intensive workshop and training that focuses on actor-training and business management of the Arts. The set-skills to be developed by the participants of these intensive workshops, will be situated against the canvas of multiple layers of opportunities in the theatre as well as indicate its value chain of possibilities in the other sector of the creative industry. Israel and Israel explain that the project enables a functional education platform for young people to appreciate and aggregate Nigerian literary and performance aesthetics through entertainment with a strong whiff for acting as an enterprise.
The project articulates an engaging process to train and enable young people to acquire skills and competencies in theatre through hands-on training, workshops, experiential learning and robust practical sessions, it is intended to offer young people entrepreneurial alternatives in the creative economy that underscore investing in young people and to enable employability and sustainable development.
Israel Wekpe is no stranger in the Nigerian Theatre circle. With more than twenty five years of theatre practice, he is a thorough-bred professional and academic. He is a director, actor, actor-trainer, academic and designer with the University of Benin. He is passionate about performances which resonates with dance and music. This kind of performances also inform his directing technique and model. At Uniben, Wekpe teaches Directing and Acting. As a theatre professional, he has directed plays such as Ossa Earliece’s “Adesuwa” (December, 2021), Pedro’s Agbonifo-Obaseki’s “Idia: The Epic of an African Queen” (December, 2020), Charles Nwokolo’s “Ebibulu, a Musical” (May 2018) amongst others. Wekpe, who lives in Benin, completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Benin in 1996 and proceeded for a Master of Art degree from the University of Leeds, UK in 2003. He has also enrolled for a PhD program with the subject of “Actor-training” at Leeds, UK.
Israel Eboh is the current National President of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre practitioners which is a body that houses and looks after the welfare of theatre practitioners of varied experiences and specialisation. Eboh was trained at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he obtained BA honours in Drama in 1985. He then proceeded to the University of Ibadan where he obtained a Masters of Arts degree in 1998. He is specialised in directing, Business Management and Arts Administration. Israel Eboh was keynote at the AHSCE Creative Imagination Week, where he spoke on “the Sustainability of Creative Partnerships in the Performing Arts”. At the Creative Imagination Week, he made the important distinction between partnerships and sustainability in the Theatre business of Nigeria.
Israel Eboh has had varied work experiences as a Media and Content Consultant, with the Bankers Committee where he holds periodic workshops in Funding Nigeria’s SMEs. He has also worked in Television as Artistic Director and Producer on shows such as “Christmas Shopping with Edith Jayne” in NTA 2 and Channels Television. Israel Eboh has worked in Radio, as an artiste on “Gandu Street” for the Federal Radio Corporation, FRCN, Ikoyi. He also has experience as Public Relations Officer for Jesse Roots Nig. Ltd. Speaking on his cocktail of experiences and how it fits into this project, Israel Eboh explains that he deliberately went after all these experiences because he did not want to be limited in the creative industry. He wanted a broad band of experiences that is needed in order to make good success of the show and the business.
Israel and Israel have worked together before during the NANTAP programme for the 2021 World Theatre day which held in March, 2021. They both worked on the play: “Idia, the Epic of an African Queen”. While Eboh worked as a producer, Wekpe directed the piece. The idea for this particular project came from that interaction. Both Wekpe and Eboh agreed that a vibrant theatre community is lacking in Benin City and there are a lot of young creatives who could awaken the live theatre experience in the City, similar to what is obtainable in Lagos.
Eboh also notes that one of the things he found lacking in the Nigerian University Curriculum, when he had a brief stint as a lecturer, was that the curriculum was largely deficient and not up to date with the best global industry practices. This training therefore is a way of filling that gap.