By Tibebeselassie Tigabu
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Since the introduction of modern theater in Ethiopia in the 20th century by French-educated Bejrond Teklehawariat Teklemariam, dramatic genre and form shifts have largely been influenced by either religion, politics, or economic condition.
Notable playwrights like Tsegaye Gebremedhin and Mengistu Lemma were able to present plays with strong social and political criticisms. Commentators argue that theater in Ethiopia is limited to a few genres and one thing that is lacking in Ethiopian stage productions is musicals, writes Tibebeselassie Tigabu.
Ethiopia is a romanticized nation nostalgic about the ancient times. A country which is referred as the cradle of mankind and early civilization, mentioned in both the Bible and Quran, described by ancient Greek historians as a nation loved by the gods.
An empire which reached the peak of early civilization has been told and retold by generations. Within this tale there is also a prophecy of a king known as “Tewodros”; who emerges from the east to bring back the glorious times of the past.
In mid-18th century, a nation which was ravished by war and divided among regional warlords saw the rise of a young rebel Kasa Hailu from a small town of Quara in Gondar. Kassa later became Ethiopia’s emperor under the throne name Tewodros II, claiming the prophecy to bring back the united and strong Ethiopia. This dream of the emperor was revisited in one of the renowned playwright Getnet Enyew’s musical play entitled “Ye Tewodros Raey” (Tewodros’ vision). Involving more than 120 actors and actresses, this is one of the biggest productions in the National Theater’s history.
Every week the National Theater arcade is full of spectators eager to watch the play. Away from the blistering sun and chatting with their companions, many wait in long queues to watch the much talked about play of Getnet.
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