We didn’t know where we were headed back then. The only thing we were certain of was our passion for the arts
— Segun Adefila
Writing, the beautiful the about writing, is the creativity and imagination that comes with it. Imagining a character’s voice, hair style, clothing, what he/she might do in certain situations. It is very satisfying. However, nothing beats the pure delight of seeing characters you have imagined for so long come alive.
But, in our small world of writing, we often forget the playwrights, the script writers and other creative writers that also…well…write.
There is a whole other world out there. One does not only have to write fiction, short stories, the never ending novel of our dreams that might take years to finish.
If you have a creative mind and would like to see your characters come to life, saying your words, with the right expression, the right wardrobe…you can always write something for the stage.
If you ever choose to go down that path, there is no one who knows more about writing for the theatre than our very own Chief Masquerade, Segun Adefila.
Interested? eyebrows raised? Well then, you are in luck! Brittle Paper sat down with Segun Adefila, the Chief Masquerade of the Crown Troupe of Africa to learn a little bit more about his world.
Tell us a bit about your first encounter with the theatre.
Between the ages of 7 and 10, I lived in Omu Aran. Those three years, I believe were vital years because that was the period I encountered traditional African Masquerade for the first time. Odun Eegun (Masquerade Festival) had its pomp and pageantry and here I learnt to dance, sing and ‘play the ancestral role’ the masquerade represents. So for me, my first exposure to theatre was this cherish-able childhood experience. As a matter of fact, my uncle made me my personal masquerade and it was like owning the only Bicycle in the neighbourhood!
I had a ready retinue of friends with whom we would go in performance processions with the Bigger and more ‘serious’ Masquerade- in the classical Alarinjo fashion. It was also in this ancient town that I first experienced Yoruba folklore.
Storytelling, riddles and jokes, moonlight games, folk songs etc were part of growing up in Omu Aran. It was a way of life.
Then I had to go back to the city (Lagos) to continue my elementary education and on to secondary schools in Okene (Kogi State), Esie (Kwara Sate) and finally, Lagos State! There are three things to be observed here. I was a science student all through. I was active in literary activities and I was one of the poorest science student!
When did you first start working professionally in the theatre?
Well, after secondary school, I worked variously as a clerk, cleaner, bar tender, security guard before encountering the arts again in 1995. In 1995, I joined a dance theatre group, based in Bariga, Lagos called Black Image headed by two jolly good friends, Paul Young and Thompson Tabi. Here was where I got my first introduction to professional modern theatre.
In 1996, I co-founded the Crown Troupe of Africa with some friends. We merely met to gist, sing, dance, act and generally have fun with no serious inclination towards making a career out of the arts. Then in 1997, I studied for a Certificate in Drama from the Centre for Cultural Studies (now Department of Creative Arts) , University of Lagos. Here I met and was tutored by great teachers like the late Bode Osanyin ,Prof. Duro Oni, Prof. Laz Ekweme, Dr. Seri Ajasin, Prof. Abayomi Barber, Tunji Sotimirin etc. These people took care of my Gown training. Here, I was re-introduced – in a broader sense- to the tradition and culture that I experienced in my childhood.
The works of the great Fela Anikulapo, Bob Marley, Ogunde etc also began to assume a deeper dimension in my consciousness. In the Town, I also met or observed and got mentorship from great icons like Elder Steve Rhodes, Mrs. Francesca Emanuel, Ben Tomoloju, Felix Okolo, Ahmed Yerima, Muyiwa Osinake, Ojo Bakare, Tunde Kelani etc. The works of these masters were inspirational.
There were days I was sure I took the wrong decision by sticking to the arts but these thoughts quickly vanished with the next prospect of any upcoming performance. There were days even before university days that we would roam the streets with our drums in search of performance opportunities. Gradually, things began to improve and here we are. CT is currently at the minimum, 25 man strong.
What kind of stories do you adapt for the stage and how ?
In Crown Troupe, we produce published works of established and upcoming authors. Apart from plays, we have also adapted novels for the stage. An example is Eko Dialogue by Joy Isi Bewaji. The content and form of our performances are determined by the stories we want to tell, who we want to tell it to and how we want to tell it. For these reasons, the factors considered become varied. We experiment with forms and we don’t shy away from adventures in these explorations. The works in our repertoire are mainly composed on and for the stage.
We mainly go in the reverse order by making our works stage to script as opposed to script to stage. We compose through improvisations too and also attempt to make our works accessible to our audience without outright spoon-feeding.
What’s the future going to be like for the Crown Troupe?
The future? The aim is to go right ahead and never look back except in appraisal and gratitude.
Upcoming Shows in Lagos
September: Ferdie Adimeife’s For The Love of The Country
October: Segen Adefila’s Clipped Wings
November: Wole Soyinka’s Alapata Apata
December: Zainabu Jallo’s High on Eleven
All Images taken from the artist’s Facebook page.