HISTORY OF ETHIOPIAN THEATRE(2):By Yonas H.Meskel
MELAKU ASHAGRIE(1933-1993):Was born in Gulelie area,Addis Ababa.He joined the Municipality Theatre in 1950.He was participated for the first time in a play called "Sine Siklet" as a singer.Then he was joined Matewos Bekele's "Andinet Ye Theatre Budn" and was mooved to Harar with the group.In 1957,he left Hagerfikir and joined the "kebur Zebegna" military band.He performed two plays there titled"Set Aredachign" and "Seytan Le Wedaju Kirbnew",but he was escaped while the participatory actors were prisoned for the case that he performed the second play without permission.
In 1972,he established "Tewodros Ye Theatre Ena Ye Musica Budn", which is the second private theatre company in Ethiopia.He performed many plays in different rular and urban areas of Ethiopia with his group.The contribution of the private companies of both Melaku and Matewos is mentioned for capturing theatre audiences in a large number through out the country and making theatre popular in Ethiopia.
This company was survived for almost 4 years and was collapsed in 1976.After this Melaku joined the Hagerfikir Theatre and worked there until 1989.He wrote more than 25 plays;some of them include: "Shifinfin","Aye Sew","Min Aynet Meret Nat","Alem Gizena Genzeb","Gud Fela","Hilm New","Gend Albes","Marign","Yiqirtashin","Matat Ena Mag'gnet","Kehedet Ye Nuro Sehetet","Yetim Worq Endashaw","Nefs Yimar" ,"Babur","Metregiya Yalew","Ye Esat Erat".
KEBEDE MICHAEL(1915_1999):Was born in Ankober town.After he came to Addis Ababa,he was admitted first in the Alliance Ethio_Francis, and latter in Lazarist Mission school.He is known for introducing translation for Ethiopian writers by his famous work "Romeo Ena Juliet".He had also translated M.Clay's "Beyond the Pardon" as "Keyikrta Belay".He also had many plays written by himself.These include:"Ye Tenbit Qetero","Ye Qetat Ma'abel","Kaleb" and "Hanibal".
Kebede Michael is a marking person in the history of Ethiopian literature as a whole being a person who had wrote and published a number of texts originally meant to teach children,different books which contain a number of artistic plays,advises and poetry.His intention to be a morality writter is reflected in his works.
3.1.2.THE MUNICIPALITY THEATRE
Locally known as "Mazegaja Theatre"_was established arround 1947 for three main reasons:
1.In order to let the patriots of Ethiopia who stood against the fascist Italian forces to express their feelings,
2.In order to memorize those patriots who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country,and
3.To develop theatre in Ethiopia.
The Theatre was primarily established by a name_"Ye Arbegnoch Masfefiya", and among the persons who established, Yoftahe Negusie, Afework Adafrie, Nersis K.Nalvandian, Tesfaye Lema, Emaelaf Hiruy, Senedu Gebru, Abebe Reta, Balambaras Emeyu and Lij Ar'aya Selassie can be mensioned.After it was once established, the first play that was performed was Afewerk Adafrie's "Mekenetuan Tifta".The Theatre had changed its sites two times,the the last and the modern one was opened in 1975 by a play of Mengistu Lemma_"Bale Kaba Ena Bale Daba".
3.1.3.THE ETHIOPIAN NATIONAL THEATRE
Locally known as "Ye Ethiopia Biherawi Theatre"_was established in 1956,by changing the former "Cinema Malconi" of the invading Fascist Italians to a theatre.It was established for 5 main aims:
1.To develop our culture and to control cultura linvasions,
2.To develop the knowledge (of the people) through theatre and music,
3.To develop the culture of self expression,
4.To transmit our cultures of music,theatre and dance to the next generation,and
5.To consolidate our relations with the rest Africans and the world.
It is important to mention the contribution of some foreigners to the establishment and development of the National Theatre.An Austrian Francis Zulveker was the first administrator and the director of the first play performed in the Theatre,Mekonen Endalkachew's "Dawit Ena Orion".There is also a person named Alexander Agar,who for the first time used light in the Theatre in a play titled "Manim Sew", who sterted to use sound effect in a modern way,and who made the scenaries of the plays modern and realistic.
After its establishment to the 1974's polotical change, 44 plays were performed in the Theatre.The famous onnes who wrote most of the plays include:
."Dawit Ena Orion"
."Ye Qetat Ma'abel"
.Girmachew Tekle Hawariat:
."Tewodros Tarikawi Drama"
."Alem Gize Ena Genzeb"
(Molier's translated works)."Deme Merara"
3.2.THE DERG'S PERIOD(1974_1991)
In the year 1973,there was a great revolution in which most of the peoples of Ethiopia stood against the Monarchial rule. Following the revolution,the reign of the emperor was ended and a new type of government was set.The Derg officials who were composed of the armed forces declared a socialist government called "The Peoples' Democratic Republic of Ethiopia".
With regard to the development of theatre and other artistic genres, the Derg’s period can be taken as a period in which active and serious control and influence was certain by the gov’t body over the artists. There was little or no freedom for the play wrights of the period to write as they think and as they wish. The period witnessed many losses of lives of Ethiopian literary giants. In a direct or indirect causes, Bealu Girma ( a famous novelist), Abe Gubegna (a novelist and a playwright) and many others were killed. Almost all the plays which were performed in this period were political plays which reflect the official ideology of the government
The Theatre was built in 1937 but started to function as a Theatre in 1979.It was oppened by a play titled "Tayaqi" which was translated by Mengistu Lemma from the original play by J.B.Pristly("An Inspector Calls").After its establishment in 1982 as a Theatre,Ras Theatre had employed 4 graduates of the first batch of the department of Theatre Arts at Addis Ababa University, namely Yigrem Reta,Kifle Engidasew,
Bekele Tefera and Alishu Mumbe.
More than 40 plays were performed starting from its establishment, out of which the play which could gather a large number of audience is "Late",which was wrotten and directed by the actors.This play is the first documentary theatre in Eastern Africa,and this is one of the factors that differenciate the Theatre from the others.
3.2.2.THE FAMOUS PLAYWRIGHTS OF THIS PERIOD.
Most of the plays which were performed at the begining of the Derg period were political plays that arouse socialist ideas.The most famous political writers of this period include:
1.GETACHEW ABDI_Was born in Wello,Dessie area in 1947.After he completed his high school studies, he was employed in the National Theatre.He was able to get a free scholarship chance to study in Russia and was admitted to Lunacharisky Theatre Institute.After he was graduated in M.A. level,he came back to Ethiopia and was appointed at Hagerfikir Theatre.He administered Hagerfikir for 4 years(1980_84) and then the National Theatre for 9 yearrs(1984_92).He is known for his political plays which include:"Sentayehu","Enashenefalen","Mestawet", "Mishit","Qulfu".
2.AYALNEH MULATU_Was born in Agew;Kuasura area in Gojam in 1949.After completing his high school education,he was sent to Russia to study journalism in M.A. level.After he came back to Ethiopia,he wrote many political plays which include:"Esat Sined","Shatir Beye Ferju","Ye Geterwa FAna","Ye Menta Enat","Duba Ena Qil","Tilq Ayin","Deha Adeg", "Sebara Zeng","Kedija","Shotelay".
Out of his plays,"Deha Adeg","Tebebegnawa Galemota" and "Dereja" are published and the plays titled "Yementa Enat" and "Deha Adeg" are translated to Russian and English languages.He is also known for his applications of Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre directing techniques.
3.TSEGAYE GEBREMEDHIN(1937_ 2006)_was born in 1937 in Ambo area.After he came to Addis Ababa,he had mooved to different Europian countries and he've got short courses of theatre."Tsegaye Gebremedhin continued to write plays with greate deligence,in Amharic and English.He has also translated several plays by Shakespeare,two plays by Molier and one by Brecht.In addition,he has published poems in Amharic and English....he has also co-authored the anthem of the Organization for African Unity(OAU),together with a Kenean poet and composer,in 1986." (Molvaer pp.272).He is known for his political plays which include: "Hahu Be Sedest Wer","Enat Alem Tenu","Mel'ekte Wezader","Abugida Qayso",and latter "Hahu Waynem Pepu".
Tsegaye is mostly known for his tragedy plays. The famous of such plays are:"Belg",Ye Kermo Sew","Ye Shoh Aklil".
He had also translated the famous plays which were written by Shakespeare: "Othello", "Macbeth", "Hamlet", "Lear Negassi".
And the comedies by Moliere: "Awenabaju Debtera" (Tartuffe)and "Ye Fez Dokter" (Doctor Faustus)
Tsegaye had also wrote some historical plays like: "Tewodros" and "Petros YAchin Se'at" ; and a traditional play titled_ "Oda Ok Oracle".
And once Tsegaye was an administrator of National Theatre (in 1974)
If you want to reade more about Tsegaye Gebremedhin:
4.ABE GUBEGNA_Was born in Gojam, Korekonch Abo area in 1933.After he came to Addis Ababa,he complited his high school education and set a small business.Then he was served as a journalist in the ministry of information.After 6 years,he left his work and started to write novels and plays.He wrote two political plays:"Ye Dekamoch Wotmad" and "Politika Ena Politikagnoch".
5.TESFAYE ABEBE_Was born in 1940 in the capital Addis Ababa.
He is the founder of "Tesfaye Abebe Ye Theatre Budn",which is the third private theatre company in Ethiopia following Matewos Bekele's and Melaku Ashagrie's companies.He is also known for his political plays which include:"Ye were Felasfa","Asrahulet Ebdoch Be Ketema", "Tsere Manafist","Ye Negat Kokob","Ye Tequr Dimts","Basha Damte", "Qey Machid","Tagay Sifalem","Qeyu Manatsir".
The other famous writers of this period included historical,social and traditional themes in their plays.These writers are also famous for their translation works.
1.MENGISTU LEMMA(1924_1988):Was born in Harar in 1924.After he was educated in the church,he came to Addis Ababa with his father Aleqa Lemma Hailu.then he was admitted to Kotebe Haileselassie I school.In 1948,he successfully passed the English High School Leaving Examination and was admitted to London Regent Poly-Technique school.Then he was registered in London School of Economics.In the next 6 years he spent in London, he got the chance to get the knowledge of writing comedy and about realism from the English realist writter George B.Shaw.
After he came back to Ethiopia,he served in different levels including in the civil aviation.In 1958,he was sent to the embassy of Ethiopia in India.There,he wrote a comedy titled "Telfo Be Kise",which was latter translated to English by the title "Marriage By Abdaction."
In 1963,he came back to Ethiopia and served in many positions.And in 1979,he became a lecturer in the department of Theatre Arts in Addis Ababa University.
His other plays include:
."Yalacha Gabicha"_translated to Englih as "Mariage of Unequals"
."Bale Kaba Ena Bale Daba"
Mengistu is also known for his translative works:
."Teyaqi" (J.B.Pristly's_"An Inspector Calls")
."Dandew Chabude" (Anton Chekhov's_"The Bear")
."Gidey Gidey Alegn" (Towfik Al Hakim's ).
"Mengistu's first plays were,as mentioned,comedies;how ever,they were not satires but rather comedies "with a serious purpose" and he tried to be true for life,with out using caricature or exaggeration,he said.He thereforecalled himself "a realist,not dealing with fantasy but in social criticism"..."
Mengistu Lemma,even he was belonged to a family which was a member of the higher class in the kings period, he aroused the issues of social equality.He imposed his philosophy especially in his play titled "Yalacha Gabicha" which was performed in the king's period.This had made Mengistu a SATIRICAL playwright.He is also mentioned as a model comedy and realist writter of Ethiopia.It is also he who published a dramatic technique teaching text for the first time....
If you want to reade more about Mengistu Lemma:
2.TESFAYE GESESE(1938-_____)Was born in Goregotu,Hararghe. After compliting his highschool education, in 1956, he joined Addis Ababa University.When he was a fourth year Law student,the emperor Haileselassie saw him acting in a play titled "Ya'ekob".The next day the king called tesfaye to the royal palace and awarded him . After the award,the king advised Tesfaye to change his field of study to theatre.Tesfaye accepted the advise of the king and was sent to America . He studied theatre in North Western University and came back with an M.A.degree in directing.
Tesfaye had participated as an actor in many plays which include:
"Yeshoh Aklil","Yeshi","Tewodros", and "Hamlet",to mention only few.He also directed:"Telfo Be Kise","Yaleacha Gabicha","Romeo ena Juliet",
"Oda Oc Oracle","Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf", and "Weiting for Godot".As a play wright,he have some plays including "Ekaw", "Shershelafum","Yeshi" and Firdun Lenantew"
3.FISEHABELAY YIMAM:Was born in 1954 in Dawdo area, Dessie.In 1979, he became a member of the "Lalibela Kinet Budn",which was performing theatre,music and dance in Dessie area.In 1982,he joined the department of theatre arts in Addis Ababa University.
Fisehabelay is known as a traditional playwright.His famous plays include:"Simegn Sintayehu","Alqash Ena Zafagn","Hod Yifjaw","Beg Tera"
"Ashagrie Meseret","Ye Wef Gojo","Ye Chereqa Bet".
3.3. THE PRESENT (1991-2006)
In 1991,the military administration was ended and replaced by a federal type of go'vt, The Federal Democratic Republic of ethiopia.Some new developments a