For quite some time now, acclaimed playwright Philip Luswata has had running battles with management of the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC).
The veteran actor believes that the Francis Peter Ojede-led administration has not done much for the arts and artistes since replacing the Joseph Walugembe (RIP) in 2014.
When he joined, he ‘promised to maintain an open-door policy and promote team work at the centre where favouritism has been reported to dog the smooth workflow.’
Instead, he has managed to push away several artistes and at one point had plans to construct two 20-storey buildings in the plot currently occupied by the parking lot.
The plans have since been shelved. But the industry has never been the same.
It is for this, and probably many more reasons that Luswata has decided to open up a ‘polite alternative theatre performance space christened
Located in Mengo, off Balintuma Road, Luswata says it will seat about 100 fans.
Luswata posted: “Once, at a time when we really felt there needed to be government intervention to save theatre from total collapse, Mr. Pius Bigirimana the PS of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development squarely advised us to quit agonizing and organize.
We took him for his word. The result is this polite alternative theatre performance space in Mengo, off Balintuma Road that we christened ‘Playwrights’ Playhouse’.
The biggest issue for Ugandan Theatre has not been the lack of creative brains to produce great works, but the lack of an enabling environment to produce these works. We do know that such an environment did exist before, and it is manifest in the many great theatre projects that early theatre enthusiasts can attest to.
These were developed in such now long gone spaces as Biwologoma Theatre, Riverside Theatre, Pride Theatre, Nile Theatre, Hollywood Theatre, and so many others that were all active under the stewardship of UTGA.
For those of us who were enabled to stand out through our association with great initiatives such as these, and with support under other interventions like the British Council and Royal Court Theatre supported ‘New Playwrights’ Network’, the ‘Sundance Theatre Lab (Utah)’ and the ‘Sundance East Africa Theatre Lab’, it became responsibility that we don’t only continue to talk about the good old days of Uganda’s artistic expression, but also offer opportunity for those we mentor to experience the possibilities we did, in whatever small way we could.
This is the Playwrights’ Playhouse. We hope, through it, to re-ignite the conversations and projects of the New Playwrights’’ Network, and also to provide ‘a venue with performers for creatives’ (Playwrights, dance choreographers, music composers, mixed arts performers, etc.).
We are opening soon ‘Inshah Allah’, and will be reaching out to you for your patronage as we move this possibility forward. Still a work in progress, but please feel free to pass by and ask questions.”
The project is in partnership with Heritage Cultural Troupe and is expected to open on World Theatre Day due Friday, March 27.
Thereafter, it will be opened to the public on Good Friday.