Last week we carried a story about a clash between two producers that led to the indefinite postponement of the run of a play titled Audience at Theatre in the Park.
Opinion by Godwin Muzari
It was clear the run was advertised before the crew behind its production finalised basic issues like putting together a cast and sourcing adequate funds for the show.
Many theatre lovers that thronged the venue in anticipation of the run were disappointed to be told there was no show. Initially, we were made to understand that the scheduled opening night had been cancelled and the play would go straight for public shows the following evening.
People came the second and third day, only to realise they had wasted their time and resources. There was no official communication from the producers about the cancellation.
This sad scenario is just one of many similar occurrences on the local showbiz scene over the past years.
Various shows have vanished after massive advertising and fans have been taken for granted in most cases because the events are cancelled quietly.
In most cases, as in the Audience case, organisers play the blame game at the expense of fans. Rarely do the organisers give adequate explanations over artists’ no show or, at least, issue public apologies.
When Audience was cancelled, Rooftop Promotions director Daves Guzha and Complete Arts Project director Peter Churu traded accusations instead of giving their loyal theatre followers a convincing explanation so that attendance to the next Theatre in the Park show is not affected.
That explanation would also have made sense to new comers that had been attracted to Theatre in the Park by the announcement that Audience would be staged.
Fans have a huge stake in the arts, deserve respect
In a related case, when Jamaican musician Beres Hammond did not turn up for the Beer Fest in October last year, Delta Beverages officials and Shumba Instrumentation traded fierce accusations. Delta was funding the show while Shumba Instrumentation was co-organiser.
Of course there might be haggling between co-organisers and artists behind the scenes, but the concerned parties should be professional enough to hide their differences and issue convincing explanations and official apologies.
It is irrational for these parties to wash their dirty linen in public. At times it is necessary for the organisers to swallow their pride and issue collective statements despite haggling behind the scenes. Fans should come first in the organisers’ minds whenever they have to cancel a show. Fans are the most affected and they can at times turn violent, which would further tarnish the organisers’ images.
There was an incident at Wedza Spacemen Bar in Glen Norah in 2008 when fans fought running battles with the police after a long wait for Alick Macheso’s performance. Macheso and key members of his band were attending a funeral somewhere outside the capital city and they came on stage far later than expected. It was, however, too late when they came because violence had erupted resulting in destruction of property and injuries.
The promoter was just supposed to explain the situation to the fans before they turned violent but everyone was kept guessing until missiles flew towards female dancers of Mambokadzi dance group that were filling up for Macheso’s delay.
Communication between show organisers and their fans is important inasmuch as refraining from announcing shows before adequate paperwork has been done is imperative.
Other deals that fell through
Last week South African musician Brickz could not come to perform in Bulawayo because the promoters advertised the show before getting clearances from responsible authorities.
A week earlier, Freddy Gwala had been deported as he came for a show in Bulawayo while the previous week had seen Lundi being denied entry into the country for a show in Harare because the shows had not been cleared.
Other international artists that did not turn up for advertised shows include Morgan Heritage, Mary J Blige, Vybz Kartel and Boys II Men. The reasons might vary but organisers are to blame for shouting their intentions before they seal the deals.