As the country cowered under the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 in 2021, musical theater has seen a resurgence as seen at this year’s Kenya Theater Awards.
Thursday’s awards saw KCA University’s Simba Bazenga emerge as the best production, battling for top honors with fellow musical, Subira.
Simba Bazenga took home 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, producing Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Musical) in Zimbabwe’s Mundawara Shaun, Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Musical) in Nice Githinji and Best performance of a male actor in a supporting (musical) role in Gilbert Lukalia.
The biggest winning single production of the night however was a play, Blackout, which in five categories; with Best Producer (Clare Wahome), Best Kenyan Playwright (Xavier Nato), Best Set Design (Brian Irungu), Best Breakthrough Male Performer (Ted Munene) and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Supporting Role (Play ) won by Mike Ndeda.
Waking Mzenge won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Play) for her role in Breathe III.
The inaugural Kenya Theater Awards saw veteran theater guru and author David Mulwa receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.
A frail Mulwa was at a loss for words. He was joined on stage by some of the students he has taught over the years who were in attendance, which turned out to be nearly half of those present, a testament to the effect he had on the acting industry since he started his acting career in 1967.
He has been recognized for his role as an accomplished actor, director, speaker, mentor, judge and author, with over 18 highly regarded publications. They include Buriani, Redemption and Heritage which were read like textbooks.
He was also part of the organizing committee of the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival.
Another veteran actor, John Sibi-Okumu, received the Global Impact Award. In his speech, he recalled the journey he has been on and sharing the stage with greats like David Mulwa.
In a 1975 production of Muntu, for example, Sibi-Okumu said he shared a stage with Mulwa and Francis Imbuga, among other theater pioneers. Sibi-Okumu made his Kenya National Theater debut in 1973 at the age of 19 as Romeo.
He has performed, directed and written notable plays and 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 after the Sanaa Theater Awards.