‘Obi, you would be directing our Drama group for the Shiloh Theatre Interfaculty Drama Competition’. Uche said casually as we greeted ourselves in front of the Kenneth Dike Male hostel. I stared at him like he was kidding. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t. My hands are full at the moment’ I replied without even thinking twice.
‘But you were the person that handled it last year’, he said. ‘Me? Definitely not’. I answered
I had only acted in the last year’s competition and my drama group; the Christian Association of Business Students (CABS) Drama group had come last. I was later informed that we had come last for three consecutive times and sincerely, I was not willing to be a part of the ‘last coming’ again, besides that I already had my hands full. In addition to being a 3rd year Accounting Student in the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, I was also doing part time French Studies at the Alliance Française (French Cultural Centre), also I was the General Secretary of my fellowship (Nigeria Fellowship of Evangelical Students- NIFES) and I also belonged to the Prayer Group and the Drama Group. I barely even had time for myself.
‘Well, when I got the letter inviting us for this competition, I started praying about it and the Holy Spirit brought your name to my mind’, Uche, the CABS President continued.
Ah! He had me there! I stared at him as he smiled, showing off his entire pearly white 32. I thought for a moment, all my excuses seemed to have evaporated. Why on earth did he have to bring the Holy Ghost into this matter? I thought to myself
‘Actually, I do not have time for rehearsals. If this competition is in two weeks, we ought to have started rehearsing long ago, we can’t just go there and fail again’ I quipped, hoping he would change his mind about having us compete.
Instead, he went along to tell a long story on how the CABS week had clashed with the initial date fixed for the competition and how that he had decided that we would not compete only for them to write him telling him that the date of the competition had been changed to accommodate us and having thought about it and prayed about it, he would want us to compete.
‘Okay then, if you insist. I’m not promising anything but I’ll try my best.
I walked away with my shoulders slightly lower than before, like one more weight has literally been added to the load I was already carrying. Later that night, I sat on the only study table in my supposedly three man room with six occupants in Manuwa hall and prayed a simple prayer. I told the Holy Spirit that since he wanted me to direct the drama; he definitely would have a script for me. The theme for the competition was the ‘The Power of His Grace’ taken from Ephesians 2:8-9. I took some time to meditate on the theme verse and while I did that, an idea dropped in my mind and I went on to write a script. I wrote an epic story of forgiveness and transformation, describing what the grace of God did for us.
The next day, I informed Uche, who was also my classmate that I was done with the scripting. A script conference and all night rehearsals was scheduled for the next day at the Christian Union secretariat in Kenneth Dike Hall however, very few people turned up and since I was the only female present, I was escorted back to my hall by the guys who now went ahead to critique the script and make some modifications. With the script ready, all we needed to do was Casting and then rehearsals.
We had one week and a few days to go but it was rather difficult getting the cast of the drama all together, only a few people would turn up. I remember one particularly funny guy- Ogbonna; a final year Accounting student, he kept encouraging me not to back out from the competition. In his own words, ‘even if we come last, it is still to the glory of God.
We were finally able to organize one all night rehearsal, but we could not finish the entire drama. This was the competition week and it was also CABS week. Well the days went by without our rehearsing and finally it was Friday, the day before the competition. We scheduled another all-night rehearsal, this turned out to be worse than before. The girl who was to play the lead role did not show up, also a lot of the other supporting cast. I had to make do with the people that came, I also casted Uche as the King since we were short of people. The night went so fast, but we were able to do some work, we modified some scenes to accommodate the few casts that we had BUT we still had some characters missing. We rehearsed our ‘Glory Parade’ presentation- a 5 minutes display on what the department is all about. At the end of the rehearsal, I called the casts together and we seriously considered calling off our participation, Ota Uma Ben, one of the lead male characters opposed it vehemently and I decided to have him act as both the Native Doctor and the Drunk since the native Doctor scene was a short one and he would be wearing heavy make-up that would disguise him. Ogbonna who was the opening act was also there chorusing his verse ‘even if we come last, it is still to the glory of God’. At this point, I couldn’t back out. I had to make this work.
On the day of the competition, I had to go to the rooms of the characters that backed out to plead with them to come back in but they all refused. I asked some of my friends and they all laughed that they did not want to partake in the ‘last coming’. I finally went back to my room and met one of my roommates Ify, she had never been on stage before but I convinced her to play a supporting role. I also went downstairs to my former room when I was in 2nd year and met one of my roommates; I offered her the role of the Prince’s fiancée and ran through it with her. I told her we would have one more rehearsal outside the hall before going up to act.
The competition was scheduled to start by 6pm and we gathered outside the hall at about 5pm. While we were there, I started hearing stories of how the Medical Faculty had been rehearsing for over one month and how the Law Faculty had one mind blowing drama. At this point I could feel my stomach cringe. We were able to squeeze in some rehearsal time before the competition started and I was called to pick the slot for CABS. While we were rehearsing, a guy walked up to us and asked if this was CABS, we told him yes and he volunteered to act so I casted him as one of the King’s guards since we had only one guard at that time. He quickly pulled his shirt and donned a costume.
Upstage, the moderator emphasized the fact that CABS had ‘come last’ three times consecutively but I kept a straight face and picked our slot. We were to present in the third place for the ‘Glory Parade’ and Second place for the drama. The performance started, the Law Faculty had their glory parade first, the story of Jesus and how he forgave the adulteress regardless of the legal system, then the medical faculty demonstrated how they brought hope to nations through missions outreaches, next we came on stage and sincerely our performance was a blur, I can’t remember what we did though we tried to communicate something about money. Next, the Environmental Sciences presented a Glory Parade so powerful that I still remember every scene. They retold the story of creation and showed how God sent Surveyors to check out the earth, Architects to design, Estate Managers to plan etc. The voice over was baritone (it belonged to my NIFES Fellowship President) and with every sentence the action took place on stage. They got a standing ovation at the end.
Next came the drama presentations, the Medical Faculty went first and then we followed. First scene, Ogbonna went up and committed suicide on stage because he had so many issues including a wayward wife and an imbecile daughter. Several years later, his daughter had grown up and had become the laughing stock of the village. At this time, the King’s son was preparing to get married to his fiancée but in order to prove that she could be of relevance; the imbecile visited a native doctor for a charm to make the prince fall in love with her. On the day of the wedding, just as the Prince was leaving the Palace, amidst much jubilation the imbecile walked past and blew the powdered charm on him. Unfortunately, the Prince fell down and died instantly while the imbecile turned blind. Pandemonium struck and the King summoned the Chief Priest to find out what happened to his son. The Chief Priest announced several days later that it was the imbecile that killed the Prince. The villagers were aghast and cried for her blood, she had to die. At this point the King stood up much to everyone’s amazement and declared that there was no need shedding another blood. His son was already dead and killing the imbecile won’t bring him back. He forgave her there and then and asked the Chief priest what could be done to help her regain her sight. The Chief Priest started his incantations and while he was at it, everywhere became dark (and we quickly ran to the imbecile and straightened out her hair and redid her dress) by the time the lights came back up, in the place of the ugly cross-eyed imbecile stood a beautiful young lady. The villagers were amazed (and backstage my faithful Ota Uma Ben raised the chorus that we the villagers forgot on stage- Amazing Grace) the moderator took up the song while we quickly filed out of stage before we exceed our assigned 20 minutes and loose marks. This was amidst shouts of ‘You don win, You don win’ from the audience. I was so sure that they were mocking us. Outside the hall, I thanked all my cast for their participation, we prayed and thanked God and we went back inside to watch the rest of the drama presentation.
Finally, it was time to announce the results and I steeled my back as Ogbonna’s words echoed in my ears ‘even if we come last, it is still to the glory of God. The result for the Glory parade was announced first and we came last. The moderator did not even bother calling our name, he just announced the first three and since we were only four faculties competing, we just knew our place. Next was the result for the drama presentations;
“The award for the Best Directing goes to …. The Christian Association of Business Students Drama group!” The Moderator announced.
What? I could not believe my ears. I could see my cast members dancing and jumping and then it dawned on me that we were the one. I got up and walked up the stage in a daze and picked the plaque, smiling. I proceeded back to the audience amidst cheers.
The award for the Best Script goes to…. CABS Drama Group!!!!” The cheers were deafening as I turned back to the stage to pick the second award. All our faculty members present screamed and danced and it took a while to get everyone to be quiet.
The awards for the best actor and actress came next and both went to my lead characters (Ota Uma Ben- the Native Doctor and Chijioke, the girl who acted as the Imbecile), also the award for the second best actor went to another of my characters. The one for the second best actress and best costuming went to another faculty.
“Next on our line-up of awards is the award for best Stage Management. Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for CABS Drama Group!!!” I went up again to pick the award amidst cheers, I was astounded. I walked back humbly to my seat as friends and team members hugged me.
Next were the final awards for the Drama Group of the year. The third and second positions were announced and then…
“The Overall Best Drama Group Award for the 2004 Shiloh Interfaculty Drama Competition goes to…. Christian Association of Business Students Drama Group!!!!!!”
‘Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ the scream was deafening.
I was awed as I walked towards the stage to pick the award. As I made it to the stage, Uche jumped in from nowhere and stood beside the Moderator and as soon as the trophy was handed over to me, he collected it and started jumping and screaming, it was more or less the crowning of his tenure as the President. The Drama group members all ran up stage as we danced and rejoiced, they made to carry me up but I declined, I was wearing a skirt and I was a lady, not a guy. The gist spread quickly all-round the hostels and I started getting congratulatory calls from friends and well-wishers. One of my friends that had earlier turned down my offer to perform called me on phone to congratulate me and to say that she wished she had accepted when I made the offer to her. I just laughed.
Funnily, that was my first time directing a drama, all these years; I had just been an actress, playing lead roles and all. Despite all the challenges, all the difficulties and all the discouragements, God helped us and we came out successful. I kept imagining what would have happened if we gave up…
The following day- Sunday was CABS thanksgiving service to mark the end of CABS week. I was invited to attend and we danced to the front of the Chapel with our several thanksgiving offerings and the trophy and plaques too. Later in the week, the fellowship hosted a party to celebrate the success and I was also invited. I was so happy that all went well and ended well.
But did it? Actually, that was just the beginning of my journey…
picture taken from www.panhala.net