The lights are on and the stage is set. It’s World Theatre Day!
Here are five phenomenal women setting the stage and pulling the curtains back on stories that matter through drama, plays, dance, comedy, and musicals.
- Ifeoma Fafunwa is a theatre director and founder of iOpenEye – a Nigerian production company driving social change through performance art. Her play, Hear Word! which premiered in 2014 is the first Nigerian stage play to appear at the American Repertory Theatre. Hear Word! has through the years captivated audiences worldwide with its compelling message which challenges societal, cultural, and political norms that limit women’s development. In a recent show in Makoko, a waterside community in Lagos, Hear Word! educated local women on speaking up against rape and violence.
- Danai Gurira is popularly known for being Okoye in Marvel’s superhero films, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. But Danai is also a playwright with performances in plays like For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, In the Continuum, Familiar, and the 2019 Broadway play Eclipsed, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. Danai is commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Playwrights Horizons, and the Royal Court.
- Matryna Majok is a Polish-born American playwright whose play Cost of Living won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Majok, through her writings and plays, explores underrepresented communities and gives voices to immigrants, women, the working class, and persons with disabilities. Her work though serious, is always infused with strength and humour.
- Bolanle Austen-Peters is the founder of Terra Kulture, a cultural institution in Lagos, Nigeria. She is also a theatre director and the mastermind behind BAP Productions, a production company credited with producing films such as “93 Days”, “The Bling Lagosians”, “Collision Course”, and “The Man of God”. Bolanle’s impressive portfolio also includes critically acclaimed theatrical productions, including “Fela’s Republic & the Kalakuta Queens”, “Motherland the musical”, “The Tales of Jero”, “Wakaa The Musical”, “Saro The Musical”, and “Moremi The Musical”, which have captivated audiences in various parts of the world.
- Lynn Nottage is the first and only woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. As a playwright and screenwriter, her work on stage focuses mainly on the experiences of the Black working class. In 2019, Lynn was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People and got the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award in 2022.
- Amy Jephta is a South African playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director. Her work has been staged in diverse acclaimed venues, including The Fugard Theatre, The Bush Theatre, The Royal Court Theatre, Jermyn Street Theatre, Theatre503, and the Edinburgh International Festival. Amy is the winner of the 2017 Eugene Marais prize for Drama, the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist award for Theatre, and the 2020 Baumi Prize. Her movie Barakat was selected as South Africa’s most recent submission to the International Film Oscar.
For years now, the theatre has been a medium for promoting social enlightenment and individual empowerment. These are just some of the many women actively contributing to its advancement.
Titilayo Oladapo-Ariyo is a writer based in Ibadan, Nigeria with a degree in Communication and Language Arts. Her affinity for telling stories is evident in the work she produces for various outlets. When she is not conducting interviews or crafting articles for Her Network, she is writing on her blog, watching funny Tiktoks, or reading a book.