By KELVIN KACHINGWE
NOT for the first time, Eric Kasomo Jr was at the centre of controversy at the National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia (NATAAZ) Lusaka Province festival held at the Lusaka Playhouse last weekend.
Eric, who was recently removed as NATAAZ general secretary, refused to give out the award for Best Script which he was also competing for with his play Shadow of my Village. He directed the same play for Africa Directions.
Obviously, it was a question of interest. How was he to give an award to a rival?
When he was called on stage by master of ceremonies Henry BJ Phiri, and upon learning that he was presenting the Best Script Award which went to Cheela Chilala who wrote Harvest for Shadows for NAPSA Theatre, Eric dutifully declined to give the award.
Confusion then reigned on stage and continued outside where the visibly-emotional Eric was mobbed by his colleagues.
It was not the first time that he was causing controversy at the festival; a few years ago, he disputed results at the April International Theatre Festival.
But the controversy was not only with the Best Script Award at the festival that was officiated by Kabwata Member of Parliament Given Lubinda; the Best Actor Award which went to Eddie Tembo of NAPSA was also disputed.
NAPSA were the last to take to the stage on Sunday. But some members of the audience thought the group, comprising seasoned actors, did not deserve to win any award as their voice projection was poor.
Throughout their performance, some members of the audience, particularly those at the back, could be heard shouting for the cast to raise their voices.
Notwithstanding that, the groupâ€™s director Bright Banda, who was also representing the National Arts Council of Zambia (NAC) in his capacity as vice chairman, won Best Director. The group also won the Best Actress Award through Nyambwise Wamundila as well as the Best Overall Production.
The Best Supporting Actor Award went to Acksen Sakala while the Best Supporting Actress Award was scooped by Christine Chilambwe. The Upcoming Actor Award went to Prince Salasini while Mainza Siafwa won the Upcoming Actress Award with Nancy Ngâ€™andwe of Nkwazi Theatre getting the Cameo Award.
Bantu Theatre, which presented The Pastor and the Harlot, won the Best Set and Costume Awards.
Meanwhile, NATAAZ national chairman Boyd Chibale says to make the senior festival more competitive and participatory, they have decided to reintroduce the intermediate category to accommodate colleges, universities and community groups.
This is with effect from this yearâ€™s national festival slated for October 29 to November 2 at the Lusaka Playhouse.
And in an effort to rekindle participation and contribution to the development of arts, NATAAZ will this year hold Honours Day in recognition of the contribution to the arts by many heroes, both deceased and alive.
â€œThis day will also honour organisations that have continued to support theatre by sponsoring groups. These include NAPSA, Zambia National Service, Government Printers and the Army,â€ Boyd says.
NATAAZ is also working on a campaign to lobby Government to declare National Theatre Day or National Arts Day.
By KELVIN KACHINGWE