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PLAYWRIGHT CALL FOR COMMISSIONED PRODUCTION BY THE KENYA NATIONAL CULTURAL CENTRE

By George Robert Asewe Dj Probert Founder & CEO

If you are an emerging playwright or have established yourself in the theater game this piece is for you. You have In this first installment of unpacking The Kenya National & Cultural Center we would like to amplify an opportunity which I think is clever & timely for the Kenya cultural sector. After Covid and lockdowns, the theater industry took a serious stab.

@CultureCentreKE @DStv_Kenya #FeelEveryMoment @NetflixKE #CountryQueen, #Theater #Music #Kenya #Africa #MyDstv

Who is a Playwright?

A person who writes plays.

How do Playwrights Earn a Living?

Playwrights who may also be referred to as authors or dramatists earn an income from the royalties they receive when their plays are performed. Smart playwrights will insist that they get a percentage of ticket sales. They will also be business savvy in terms of identifying licensing opportunities from local and foreign theater operators and promoters to ensure long term steady income.

Challenges in the Life of a Playwright

Kenyan playwrights have been through rough times in recent years. Covid shattered live performances. This happened at a time when the theater sector hadn’t properly invested in digital platforms and solutions that could facilitate productions during Covid. In the post Covid world we live in today, live performance in the digital space is a reality.

Secondly, because of the struggling royalty systems in Kenya, collective management systems for theater are absent or at best dysfunctional due to weak legal frameworks.

In order to survive, playwrights have to also network with radio and tv stakeholders to secure opportunities to earn from making ads, voice overs, tv & radio programs. The so-called mainstream media have over the years demonstrated their preference for foreign content which really doesn’t portray the realities for Kenyan life. They have avoided investing in local productions.

Some broadcasters such as Multichoice have over the years invested in developing modern production studios and the jury is out.

About
MultiChoice
Kenya

MultiChoice Kenya (MCK) is a joint venture between MultiChoice Africa and the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), a partnership that was cemented in 1995.

Kenyan audiences have a choice of five DStv packages with a total of more than 150 channels as well as three GOtv digital terrestrial (DTT) packages. Broadcasting 24/7, the Maisha Magic Plus (DStv Channel 163) and Maisha Magic East channels (GOtv channel 4) are packed with compelling home-grown content, much of it commissioned by M-Net in Swahili language. Operating from a new headquarters in Nairobi and nine offices across the country, the business has over 300 permanent employees and a direct and indirect impact on the Kenyan economy of more than US$573 million for the period 1 April 2015 – 31 March 2019.

AFCON 2021 Broadcast on DSTV. Copyright property of Multichoice Kenya

According to Kenya Free to Air local broadcasting regulations, within 1 year of acquiring a license, the broadcaster must ensure that 40% of their broadcasting content is locally made, produced, and even owned by Kenyans. If these local guidelines were complied with, playwrights would cash in on a thriving local network.  

However, Kenyan productions are among the best anywhere in the word. Locally developed plays are loved because they reflect Kenyan life. We need to collectively agitate for over 70 percent local content to transform the cultural space for Kenyan music & film.

country queen kenyan tv series airing on netflix

Copyright Property of Netflix Africa

Opportunity to Work with Kenya National Cultural Theater Call for Commissioned Production

One way in which you can earn an income as a playwright is through commissioned works.  Just like a real estate agent or a sales agent, a playwright can earn a commission for their work.

A new play commission is when a theatre company pays a playwright to write a script, generally with the understanding that the company has the first right of refusal to produce it. Sometimes, a playwright is given parameters for the script. This is what the Kenya National Cultural center has done.

The Cultural Center has presented an interesting & lucrative opportunity for the Theater Business Community. The Center seeks to commission Kenya-based artists and production companies to develop a theatrical production to be staged during the 70th year celebrations on 3rd November 2022. The production which could be a play or musical or a combination of both is expected to highlight milestones and moments in the journey towards the current 70 years of existence. The call has been on for sometime and is due on 31st July 2022.

Conditions for Accepting your Production

The Cultural Center is calling upon successful artists and production companies who are expected to be trained and seasoned theatre practitioners. They must demonstrate an interest in Kenya’s social history and democratic heritage.

Artists and production houses that have experience working in this area will have an upper hand. The successful applicant should be able to create non-partisan work.

The applicant must wear a corporate hat and employ a business approach because the theater is seeking someone or a company that will exhibit experience in working productively with corporate clients or large public institutions. The Applicants are required to have a proven track record of producing research-based theatrical artwork. The applicants must be based in Kenya.

Content of The Play

The Proposed production must be at least 1 hour and must not exceed 2 hours. The performance should exhibit artistic aspects of the habits, values, and norms of Kenya to create a good perception for the audience.

The Applicants Must submit the following.

Title – Name of the proposed production.

Synopsis – a brief outline of a production.

Plot outline – a plot outline gives a list of scenes. Scenes include events, character(s), and setting. The plot, therefore, shows the cause and effect of these things put together.

Step outline – A summary of a story’s events that writers create as a guide to help them when writing a full-length story Director’s concept – the directorial concept or ‘vision’ is how the director envisions the play. This begins as a written idea before being realized through the elements of production, namely the set, costumes, and lighting.

Curriculum Vitae for individual artists and/or Company profiles for production companies.

Detailed production budget – A budget outlining ALL the resources needed to undertake the production right from scripting to the staging of the production

The Cultural Center will provide the following:

A single point of contact for day-to-day support

Access to the Cultural Center archives

Help in identifying key internal and external stakeholders and research sources

Rehearsal spaces

Performance space

How to Apply

Production companies and/or individual artists, having a theatrical production satisfying the criteria stated above can submit their application to programs@kenyaculturalcentre.go.ke by 5:00 pm on 31st July 2022. The following will not be considered; Only shortlisted companies and/or individuals will be contacted and communicated to between 15th – 20th August 2022. Incomplete submissions, Late submissions, and Submissions sent to other emails will lead to automatic rejection.

Application Details Required

Name of the Theatre company/group

CV-maximum 1 page Contact Person

Language

Name of the Play/Production to be Performed

A synopsis

Plot outline

Step outline

Director’s concept Production budget (to include all costs from start to end of production) Duration

Playwright

Director

Stage Manager

The time needed to complete the script

The time needed for rehearsal

Budget

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