The commemoration of World Theatre Day 2018 in Asmara is still the talk of town. Its beautiful celebration, thanks to the hard work of this year’s Theatrical Arts graduates and the devotion of their instructor Mr. Efriem Kahsay, aka Wedi Kuada, is still vivid in the memories of many even if a couple of weeks has passed since its official celebration.
Q&A will talk today to the man who’s written and directed many plays, including the one staged in connection with World Theatre Day 2018, memorable. Meet Mr. Efriem Kahsay, Wedi Kuada, theatre expert and instructor. He is an expert of many years and literally countless memorable plays.
- Wedi Kuada, thank you for the interview. How about you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello Eritrea Profile readers! My name is Efriem Kahsay but I mostly go by my nick name, Wedi Kuada. I am an artist devoted to theatrical arts. Though my journey started as an actor, I immediately shifted to play writing and directing.
I was born and raised in Asmara. I believe this specific aspect of my life has subliminally influenced me in being vested towards theatre and art in general. Asmara in my days had art in every corner. People were highly involved and to the young version of me, even the life style was a work of art. But above all, we used to get in touch with theatre and people working in the field easily. Growing up while watching amazing artistic works has definitely a strong impulse in inspiring the societies’ youngsters. I was one of them.
- Does this mean your inclination to theatre grew up with you?
I can’t say entirely. When I was a child I aspired to be a drummer. I used to collect used cans and tins to make my drum set. Then I would spend the whole day making horrid music. Though I was so as excited nobody else was. Apparently, I was the only one who valued my noisy dream. I had nobody to back me up so I slowly left my cans and tins and focused on school. I studied mathematics.
- What about theatre?
I started acting in 1988 in a school play. I was in high school at that time. I worked hard to gather knowledge about the technics of theatre, acting, writing and directing. Though I started with little knowledge and a big passion as well as ambition, the training I received in 1995-1996, was unquestionably an immense boost to my drive. Let me take you back to 1995-1996. Back then workshops were being given to artists involved in acting, writing and directing. The training programs were provided by local stake holders while teachers and instructors were being invited from abroad. Accordingly, we had instructors from England and Norway. The aim was to enrich theatre and spread knowledge about its science. I took both of the courses and then went to England to pursue my Master’s Degree in Theatre Studies at the Leeds University. Basically, it was after my return that I steadfastly started to be engaged in theatre.
- You are an all-inclusive artist. You started as an actor but you are also a writer and director. What is your strongest hold?
I like acting. However, I don’t act for the simple fact that directing a stage play while acting in it is quite challenging. Of course, through time one can learn to do both at the same time and it is achievable, but I believe that things get to be beautiful when done one at a time. So my strongest hold is writing and directing plays and films.
- Out of all your works which one is your favorite?
I don’t have a specific favorite one. Most of the time it is impossible for an artist to favor one specific work. To me all of my works are my children, so I don’t have a favorite one; I love them all.
- Your works are famous for mostly being history based. You do your research well and you have many admirers that admire this tendency of yours. Why do you tend to go back in time and dig through written or non-documented history?
We are artists and we have power in our hands. Theatre is power. People love and follow it. Knowing so, a play writer would be better off to transmit facts in a creative way and make sure history is somehow preserved. The outcome is grand as it is the effort that research based works require. The challenges you face when working on research based works, or you shall call it plays based on true stories, are massive. It all starts with the budget needed for travel expenses, lodging and what not while researching. It is a type of work that takes much of your time. Then, a lot of times people like to talk off the record so it is a hustle to get the words out of their mouths. Moving on, not a lot of events are documented in books, so you have to work even harder looking for written proof. However, when it is all finished and done, it is extremely rewarding. People come up to you to tell you they didn’t know about it and that they’ll go do their own research. But all in all the depth of your work is maximized based on the efforts you excerpt to search. Moreover, your work shines in terms of identity so much so it becomes the source of pride to the owners of the history, and it is informative to outsiders.
- What would you say about other artists trying out on realistic art in theatre?
The intention is admirable. Like I said for me, it is better to invest your time and energy in art rather than hunting totally story lines in your mind. But I do feel the need of criticizing the redundant stories and topics that are being chosen. Artists tend to chase events of recent history. And that is what causes the recapping of similar story lines. I want to remind artists like myself to dig a bit deeper, and then a bit more and more. Because the history concealed under layers of time is far more interesting and exciting. It also gives a chance for artists to be creative and rich in diversity. We do have a lot to correct.
- How do we do the correction then?
Education is vital. An artist should never cease learning. If we don’t read and compare our know-hows to that of other countries how are we to improve? Some think talent alone is enough; however, I strongly disagree. Let talent be a pencil, but education is the sharpener. Subsequently, it is our duty, as artists, to be educated, disciplined and knowledgeable.
- Tell us about your endeavor in the academic field. You are indeed a respected instructor?
I have been teaching since 1994. First I worked with the NUEYS and after I came back from England I have been teaching focusing on drama and film for, now, ten years. It is still going on. The aim of Cultural Affairs’ office is to boast high school theatre clubs. So what we do is open our doors to high school students looking forward to their advancement in terms of theatre and film knowledge as well as their unity as peers of the same age and interest. The overall goal is to nourish the youngster’s passion while making them the driving force in the growth of theatre and film of the country.
- Your students, some of whom are now renowned artists, remember you for mostly teaching them discipline?
What is an artist without discipline? Every profession requires a certain conduct. Which is why I am very strict about punctuality and discipline. I must say our young artists are highly disciplined and serious about their job. They take after the senior, ex freedom fighters, actors. I want to express my gratitude to them for being great examples of passion and drive for our common profession.
- Thank you!