It is evident that a lot of theatre activities in different parts of the country have not been reported by our media. As a result, the picture that is usually painted is that it is only in Harare and Bulawayo where theatre by professional theatre groups thrives.
Recently, I spent a highly engaged afternoon of a rich discussion with members of Masvingo Youth and Adolescent Group for Entertainment on what they have done and are doing as a professional theatre company. I had never heard of or read about this full- time theatre company that was established in 2011.
What impressed me mostly is the passion for theatre which this seven-member youth group has.
Each one of them who spoke to me showed tremendous commitment to "promoting talent, knowledge and enjoyment the learning, creating and practice of the performing arts and to the use of theatre to deal with issues that cause the youth to remain an undefined social cluster whose concerns are ignored by the adult society".
With a programme modelled on theatre for development approach, MY-AGE has a sustained repertoire of eight plays that can be presented to particular audiences at short notice.
Currently, the group is involved in presenting to children in primary and secondary schools a collection of plays under the banner of "Buddyz for Love" written by Patsime Edutaiment Trust.
The serialised plays address such issues as "peer pressure, peer support in HIV prevention, care and the reduction of stigma and discrimination".
In this project drama is used to promote gender equality between "the boy and the girl child within the school setting in curricula and extra-curricula activities".
This programme comprises a presentation of a 25-minute drama that is followed by a post-production discussion aimed at highlighting issues in the play and "creating a dialoguing platform for enhancing the learning process".
In this project, MY-AGE works in partnership with Patsime Edutainment Trust which has been giving the group technical support and has ensured that the group is regularly visited and assisted in confronting challenges it faces in implementing the theatre programme.
This theatre programme which targets primary and secondary schools in Masvingo province fits very well with one of the group's objective of "using theatre to provide information, develop capacity and enhance communication among the youth in addressing HIV/Aids and other related development issues".
The second theatre programme the group is also currently involved in is "Swag My Vote" which is being implemented in collaboration with Real Agenda for Youth Transformation.
The play, which was written by Onward Chironda, aims at encouraging "young people in taking part in all decision-making processes in the country especially in the forth- coming referendum and elections". The main target audience of this theatre programme is out-of-school youth.
MY-AGE Theatre Group comprises Onward Chironda, Moreblessing Mavhika, Happias Msinde, Donald Chikoto, Patricia Marufu, Blessing Malaika and Rodwell Hunduza. The range of issues the group deals with in its repertoire covers a wide of development and social issues.
In the play "The Ones in Charge" written by Tatenda Chinoda and produced with the support of ZimRights, issues to do with peaceful co-existence and respect for human rights are dealt with.
In the other play "Todini" also written by Tatenda Chinoda and produced in partnership with Patsime Trust, sexual and reproductive health issues being faced by the young people are comprehensively articulated.
Two other members of the group, Happias Msinde and Moreblessing Malaika, penned "Chingwa Chiripi" - a play that deals with youth economic empowerment. In "Asina Ndiyani" written by Onward Chironda, issues to do with "positive living" are presented.
MY-AGE Theatre Group has a long list of future plans which include the following: registering a performing arts trust; holding once-monthly theatre presentation at the Charles Austin Theatre; securing plays for performance tours from prominent playwrights; securing video recording equipment for the purpose of recording all its theatre for development plays on video for possible screening on national television and organising performance tours of schools and communities in the province.
The group articulated what it considered as serious challenges it faces as a full-time theatre company.
These challenges include lack of funding for their programmes of performance tours to schools where children cannot afford to pay entrance fees and lack of training in different aspects of theatre production and in music and dance performance which is critical in the production of good quality and dynamic performing arts products.
The commitment of the group to creating viable and sustaining professions in theatre was amply demonstrated by its motivation slogan: "We will continue to find a place for arts programmes and partnerships not only for what the performing arts teach students and youths about, but for what they teach us about the world we live."