Voting open for best shows, actors till February 13

GBV theatre pic

Kenya International Theatre Festival Trust Director Fedari Oyagi, speaks to journalists on December 10, 2022. FILE PHOTO | NMG

As the theatre-loving public is now free to cast their votes for their favourite play, producer, director, actor, and actress, the short-listings of the KTA jury are available for everyone to see.

As BDLife got a video overview of the top candidates for 32 separate awards, KTA’s CEO Fedari Oyagi apologized on Monday that public voting would be open from Tuesday, January 24, a day later than originally announced.

“We wanted to simplify the process of voting so the public could easily place their votes,” Fedari tells BDLife.

Having seen nearly all the shortlisted performances myself, it was exciting to see that many of my preferences were similar to most of the shows and personalities identified on the shortlist.

“By giving the public a chance to vote, we hope to see them get more fully engaged in the awarding process,” said Ben Ngobia, outgoing Chairman of the KTA jury.

That same sentiment was expressed by the incoming Chair, journalist Peter Ndoria who also welcomed onto the jury three new jurists.

They are Dr Emmanual Shikuku and Suki Mwanza, both of whom are senior lecturers in the film and Theatre Department of Kenyatta University.

 The third is a representative of the Kenya Government, Harriet Tergat who, like her predecessor, Milka Mugo, works in the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and the Arts.

Among the candidates for best production of 2022 were ‘Mekatilili wa Menza’ whose scriptwriter Andrew Tumbo is also up for an award, ‘I will marry when I want’, whose director Stuart Nash is also up for an award for producing ‘Mstinji’ which is being staged this weekend at the Nakuru Players Theatre; ‘Blessed be the Fruit’ and ‘Super Nova’ both by Martin Kigondu who is also up for something in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s play, ‘I will marry when I want’, and finally, ‘Speak their Names’ whose cast members were also up for awards as is their scriptwriter, Silvia Cassini.

The best production is different from the best musical theatre production apparently. It is also different from best Kikwetu or vernacular production, best [theatre] adaptation, and even best two-hander which is a new category added by the jury this year because there were so many two-handers shows in 2022.

Indeed, last year broke records for how many new productions were staged this year than ever before.

For instance, there were five times as many different production stages in 2022 than in 2021, keeping the jurists busy and the public responding exceedingly well.

However, I would implore theatre companies to work harder at promoting their shows on a variety of public platforms.

They need to do more than just create a poster (putting the dates and times in the smallest font size, creating a problem of visibility) at the last minute and put the poster on maybe one or two social media platforms, expecting the public to have seen their poster and decided (also at the last minute) whether to come to watch their show or not.

This advice is particularly pertinent to newer companies, (many of whom arrived on the scene in 2022) since older troupes like Heartstrings or Prevail Arts have dedicated fans who keep their eyes on the look-out for new productions by their favourite companies, a luxury the newer troupes need to cultivate.

 This form of self-promotion is vital not only because it can attract more local interest and attendance, but also because the wider world deserves to know how dynamic the Kenya theatre scene has become.

For instance, the public has the opportunity, thanks to the generosity and knowledge of the KTA secretariat, to draw a distinction between ‘best production’ and ‘best [theatre] adaptation’.

The latter category includes ‘Manic Monologues, ‘Mstinji’, ‘Sex Lives of African Women,’ ‘Les Miserable’, and ‘Aesop’s Fables’.

 And again, there may be debates over why there was a special award for Best Musical Theatre rather than subsuming the musicals into the overall Best production. But let the debts ensue.

The shortlist of ‘Best Musical Theatre productions’ includes Les Miserables’, Mekatilili wa Menza, Kesho Amahoro, and the Lion King.

But possibly the toughest decisions made by the jurists involved selecting the four or five best ‘breakout actors’ and ‘breakout actresses’.

These two categories were among the tough ones we were told because so much acting talent was seen on stage in 2022.

One will need to go online at to find out who they are and to cast their vote before the voting closes on February 13th. May the best candidates win.