By Frederick Philander
It’s now official. The once thriving and stimulating two-yearly Theatre Zone Competition of the National Theatre of Namibia has bitten the dust.
No mention of this rather sad and negative national theatre development was made either by the general manager of the NTN or the chairman of the board last Friday evening at the official launch of the company’s new corporate logo.
Art/Life has reliably learnt that the vibrant playwright competition has been discontinued because of lack of sponsorship.
“Our sponsorship agreement for capacity building and performing art development to the National Theatre of Namibia over the past four years has unfortunately come to an end at the end of last year.
However, in our opinion the NTN, which has developed well, is in a position to attract other funding to continue with its programme if it so wishes,” said the project manager at the Finnish Embassy, Elise Heikkenin, on enquiry.
The Finnish Embassy, the main sponsor of the event, was last Friday evening honoured for its contribution towards Namibian theatre development by the NTN.
“Our agreements with NTN and two other Namibian entities we have financially supported have ended since last year.
There is thus nothing sinister about this development.
The Finnish Embassy is still very much committed to support the development of art in Namibia. We are in the process to look at new proposals to assist such development,” Heikkenin said.
According to her, financial support from the Finnish Embassy to the Golden Pen theatre writers’ competition has also ceased since its inception in 2003.
“However, the last publication of ‘New Namibian Plays’, also financed by our embassy, will appear later this year.
We are confident that the Government and the private sector will now more readily support NTN in these much-needed national creative endeavours,” she said.
A number of winning playwrights made their stage debuts and published plays saw the light of day through these events that have now come to an abrupt end.
In some playwriting quarters Art/Life has reliably learned that there had been a lot of criticism against the format of the now defunct Theatre Zone Competition as well as the publication of the ‘New Namibia Play’ publications in the past.
Among the many known complaints counted the fact that the Theatre Zone Competition was too long-drawn out over two years and that participants started to loose interest entering their works. Unfair and bias selectivity and questionable judging of participating works had allegedly also been at the order of the day.
In an apparent desperate move to involve more established playwrights the competition was last year also for the first time opened up for outside productions, an element that should have been present from the inception of the event.
Some of the playwrights whose works had been published in the ‘New Namibian Play’ Volumes scoffed at the low book royalty incomes they have received as copyright-holders in the collective anthology over the years.
With the exception of a one-off payment of N$1??????’??