Theatre awards: KTA calls for public votes


Sam Psenjen as The Miser advises his family on frugality, in a theatre rehearsal of Moliere comedy at Alliance Francaise on August 23, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Preparations for the upcoming Kenya Theatre Awards (KTA) went into high gear last weekend as the judges met in an obscure hideaway in Naivasha for several days.

Their task was a daunting one, to first shortlist the 170 shows that were staged in 2022 by no less than 100 theatre companies.

The number of productions and theatre troupes jumped so much higher than in years past, it was almost unbelievable.

And yet in 2022, the KTA secretariat was keeping close track of who was performing what, when, where, and how.

Keeping track of the data is an essential reason why they feel they can speak with some authority when they give out awards on February 23, 2023, at the Kenya National Theatre.

Read: Kenya Theatre Awards debut with plenty of new local talent

Yet the jurists are not working alone. “We are encouraging the public to participate in the voting process,” KTA secretariat CEO Fedari Oyagi tells the BDLife.

“They can vote online at from Monday, January 23 up until February 13, he adds.

Everything the jurors discussed over the weekend is top secret, to be disclosed on February 23, on the evening of the Awards.

But we do know a few tidbits, like the fact that the public will be free to vote for anyone of the four or five candidates shortlisted in 32 categories including best production, best director, producer, male and female actor, and many more.

But the voting process has been set up so no voter can ‘stuff the ballot box’ however much they might want to.

Nonetheless, the judges say they worked hard to be fair in their deliberations, which went on for many hours.

“What made the deliberations so challenging was not just the number of plays, musicals, and spoken word performances staged nearly every weekend in 2022, but also the quality of the works,” says Kevin Kimani, Principal Programme Officer at Kenya Cultural Centre as well as co-founder with Fedari of KTA.

“Every juror who agreed to be part of the KTA jury had to commit to seeing all [or as many as possible] of the shows being staged throughout the year,” says Fedari, who is KTA CEO, not a juror.

“And after every show watched, they all had to fill out an online form that spelt out basic elements of the show they’d just seen,” he adds.

That way, during deliberations, the jurors could refer back to shows they had seen early in the year but might have forgotten.

A few shows may have deserved to be forgotten. But on the whole, judges said they were pleased with what they saw in 2022.

Compared to what they watched in 2021, the leap from '21 to 22' is remarkable. For instance, the number of theatre companies that performed in 2022 grew nearly five times.

The number of productions staged is even more astonishing. In 2022 there were 170 shows recorded, yet there were only 38 in 2021!

“The difference speaks volumes about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on thespians who were hungry to get back on stage in 2022.

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The jurors admit they only saw around 90 percent of the shows in 22' since more than half were staged in Nairobi, making shows more accessible.

But KTA also got wind of shows staged in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Lamu, and Eldoret.

Fortunately, a few jurors (but not all) were able to get around to most of those places. But KTA as an ongoing body hopes to find friends of the Theatre who will help support KTA jurors to get around the country and inspire more theatre activity nationwide.

“We know there is a lot of interest in performance all over Kenya, and we want to support its growth and development,” Fedari says.

One institution that made an immense contribution to the development and devolution of quality theatre in Kenya last year is the French government through the French Embassy in Nairobi.

“The French gave technical support to theatre groups in several counties,” Ben Ngobia, Chairman of KCA University’s Theatre Department noted.

“That support improved sound and light systems on stages in Nakuru, Kisumu, Mombasa, Lamu, and Nairobi,” he added.

The French not only gave equipment; they also provided technical training to ensure the maintenance of those systems.

The recipients of that support include the Nakuru Players Theatre, the Swahili Pot, next to Mombasa’s old port, the Lamu Fort, Kisumu Dung Beach, and Sarakasi Dome.

This kind of infrastructural support to Kenyan theatre is invaluable, so we want to express our appreciation for it.

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