Nigerian playwright heads York University’s summer theatre program

Award-winning Nigerian playwright, poet, novelist and professor, Femi Osofisan, will be the featured artist-in-residence at York University’s 3rd annual Summer Institute in Theatre Studies. Osofisan will spend six weeks in Toronto, working alongside graduate students who are interested in the origins of theatre in Africa, its current dramatists, its collective politics and vast cultural history.

Seen as a radical by some and an ingenious visionary by others, Osofisan covers a broad range of themes in his work, such as gender issues, political corruption and language use. “His work includes aspects of theatre that are significantly misunderstood in the west, including the use of dance and music which are often blended with spiritual performance in African tradition. In Osofisan’s hands, these elements are fused with modern, even avant-garde, literary and theatrical forms from the west to create works that have the ability to revision and re-energize western theatrical forms,” said Don Rubin, director of York’s MA and PhD programs in theatre studies. As the organizer of the Summer Institute, Rubin says they are honoured to have “the most important dramatist of what has been called the second generation of Nigeria’s modern theatre” working with the program.

Osofisan has received many literary awards and commendations, most notably, the Fonlon-Nichols Award, presented to African writers for excellence in creative writing and their contributions to the struggles for human rights, and the Nigerian National Order of Merit – his country’s highest academic prize.

The Summer Institute will run July 6 through August 13 and is open to graduate students from other programs and institutions with permission. On August 12 at 2:30 p.m., Osofisan and his York students will stage two of his one-act plays, Altine’s Wrath and The Engagement. This event will be free and open to the public.

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