Published On: Wed, Feb 17th, 2016


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FROM THE LIVE STAGE with Patrick-Jude Oteh

0803 700 0496, 0805 953 5215 (SMS only)

What is the exact price of a performance? What will constitute a fair price for a stage performance? Usually, it is the gut feeling of a person who is preparing the budget for the performances that determines what a‘fair price’ is. The expenses are legion – from directing fees, to artistes’ fees, technicals, costumes, make-up, per diems, accommodation (if you are travelling out of your base), transport, and some people do add incidentals or what some people refer to as miscellaneous. Then there are costs associated with rentals – stage, lights, props and maybe even a backdrop. However, the reality on the ground is that most people who come to seek for our expertise make us forego a lot of the above expenses. So you forego directing fees and reduce artistes fees and for some of us we just have to keep working so we bend a lot of the rules and compromise on what should constitute a ‘fair price’ and at the end of the day when we find that our accounts are refusing to balance, we short change the artistes. This is usually a common occurrence. So the actor works for many weeks and finds his/her way to rehearsals at his own cost and at the end of the day, he is not paid. Most times, most artistes take it in their stride and they actually make no noise because they are not sure where the next job is going to come from. Of course, some of us exploit this pliant nature of artistes to our own advantage.

However, the new phenomenon that is creeping up for those on the field is the possibility of our work being judged by a set of rules in which we are not expected to have any input. And if you dare to raise a voice that artistic works cannot be judged that way you get written off as an ‘arrogant artiste’. Let me explain – you get called up for a job and asked to present a budget. After this is done you now get told that there is a fixed amount for transport, there is a fixed amount for accommodation, there is no per diem and the fee is also fixed. First, my question – if you knew all these why did you put me through the rigmarole of a budget? And second, why should my work be judged on the basis of a set of rules in which I have no say? Going into the technicalities of the production – you expect me to make the production as real as possible which means that I have to transport set pieces and possibly a band and you tell me that my transport costs are fixed. How do I go about this if I am not to walk away with the feeling that you never wanted me to do the job in the first place? These days I tell my colleagues that we are an endangered species as we are expected to produce and work in very excruciating circumstances.

I am very much aware that there is desperation in the land. The length to which people go these days to make ends meet. But the stage art despite her value to us has failed to rise up above the sometimes mundane. I came in contact recently with a group that uses the stage arts to pass serious messages that the government is finding it difficult to confront. Not our government but another government. Of course they are working in sometimes very dire situations. Imagine a situation where in a train station that has a busy schedule all day – suddenly in the midst of the station, a popular song starts and a group of people start dancing to the song. Soon, the small group becomes a market place of people struggling to showcase their dancing skills from the aged to the young. No one is exempted but the beauty of it is that they are all doing it out of their own volition. Suddenly, the music stops and a spokesperson steps forward to speak to the audience in their hundreds. How do you quantify this? How do you put a price to this kind of creativity? It is like pricing a painting.

This is what we are now confronted with. Perhaps it is time to move into the movies. That seems to be the main selling point now. We attempted to get a loan to mount a series of stage productions recently. All those who should know kept asking us ‘what kind of film do you want to shoot?’ It is baffling. However, we would not give up just yet. More exciting days are ahead. It is only a matter of time.

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