Online theatre takes off in Kenya, next stop, Rwanda

Saturday September 25 2021

A screen grab of Aleya Kassam in Theatre for One. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE


Imagine theatre in an intimate virtual exchange experience in a public space, where you enjoy a unique live theatre stage, but privately. That is what one taps into when they attend the Theatre for One: We are Here, a theatrical innovation bringing audience and actors together, but in a different dimension.

Although the pandemic had pushed all creative work into the virtual space, it proved harder for theatre being an intimate form which loses impact without the face-to-face connection. This is where this latest venture comes in.

With no face to face gatherings allowed, a group of artistes working with the Open-Ended Group, and co-artistic director Jenny Koons, came up with We Are Here, as part of an online private performance space.

It was launched on September 15, 2021 with Theatre for One, the Nairobi edition, to make live theatre a reality again through the internet. The audience purchase a ticket online, with a number, which is used to log in. Then there is a microphone and camera check for whatever gadget is used to log in, before one is finally led to the waiting area. This is a chatroom, where interaction goes a few minutes before the real stage is unveiled. A real set with a performer.

The first edition of Theatre for One presents six Kenyan women performers; Aleya Kassam, Sitawa Namwalie, Laura Ekumbo, Anne Moraa, Mercy Mutisya and Mūmbi Kaigwa from the fields of advocacy, storytelling, editing, writings and performing, with revolutionary and inspiring stories to share through mini-plays.

The edition was commissioned by the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and produced by Octopus Theatricals, with support from the Nairobi Musical Theatre Initiative and Rainmaker Ltd.