Year of Musicals as celebrated Kenyan theatre

The winners with their awards after the ceremony at the Kenya National Theater on February 17, 2022. [Standard]

In 2021, as the country huddled under the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, musical theater enjoyed a resurgence, as evidenced by this year’s Kenya Theater Awards.

At the awards held Thursday, KCA University’s Simba Bazenga emerged as Best Production, battling for honor with another musical, Subira.

Simba Bazenga received three awards including Best Musical Theater Production and Best Musical Score, with the latter award going to the show’s Rodgers Ng’ing’a.

Subira also won three awards and produced Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (musical) in Zimbabwe’s Mundawara Shaun, Best Performance by a Female Actress in a Leading Role (musical) in Nice Githinji, and Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role ( Musical) in Gilbert Lukalia.

However, the most successful single production of the evening was a track, Blackout, which was divided into five categories; with Best Female Producer (Clare Wahome), Best Kenyan Playwright (Xavier Nato), Best Stage Design (Brian Irungu), Best Breakthrough Male Actor (Ted Munene), and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Supporting Role (Play) by Mike Ndeda.

Waking Mzenge won Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Lead Role (Play) for her role in Breathe III.

Veteran theater guru and author David Mulwa was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Kenya Theater Awards.

Words failed a frail mulwa. He was joined onto the stage by some of the students in attendance who he has taught over the years, which turned out to be almost half of those in attendance, a testament to the impact he has had on the theater industry since he began his acting career 1967

He has been recognized for his role as an actor, director, lecturer, mentor, juror and accomplished writer with more than 18 critically acclaimed publications. These include Buriani, Redemption, and Inheritance, which were read as textbooks.

He was also a member of the Organizing Committee of the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival.

Another veteran actor, John Sibi-Okumu, was honored with the Global Impact Award. In his speech he recalled the journey he has taken and sharing the stage with the likes of David Mulwa.

For example, in a 1975 production of Muntu, Sibi-Okumu said they shared a stage with Mulwa and Francis Imbuga, among other theater pioneers. Sibi-Okumu made his debut at the Kenya National Theater in 1973 at the age of 19 as Romeo.

He has acted, directed and written in notable plays and has won numerous local and international awards for his work in theater and media.

The Kenya Theater Awards is the second such award in the country, following the Sanaa Theater Awards.

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