Pit Theatre’s Epic Runway Show

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Shots from Invasion Runway, Pit Theatre, OAU, Ile Ife

From mind-blowing collections to bewitching theatrical spectacle, Dramatic Arts students at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife staged an unforgettable show to merge theory with practice, Yinka Olatunbosun reports

A criss cross catwalk design built by some students of the Department of Dramatic Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife set the mood for the action-packed evening of an unorthodox runway show titled, “Invasion: Aliens Vs Gods.’’

Staged at the Pit Theatre, OAU, Ile Ife on July 4, the show is a mandatory class project for part three students of the department with the moniker, LOOVUS, under the course DRA 307 titled, “Techniques of Costumes, Masks and Make-up.’’

DRA 307 has grown over the years to become a platform for students to showcase their potentials in fashion designing, screen printing, costume designing, make up, nails fixing, hairand headgear making, modelling, disc-jockeying, singing, stand-up comedy, event management, amongst others. Perhaps, the multiplicity of skills embodied in the course and the department as a whole may have accounted for the department’s 400 per cent increase in enrollment in the past decade.

For the lecturer in charge and award-winning costume designer, Mrs. Toyin Ogundeji, the show is almost a week-long affair this year with the introduction of exhibitions and affordable make up, gele tying and hair do sessions. The epic runway show was the climax of it all.

“Twelve years ago, we started this journey with Late Prof Foluke Ogunleye,’’ Ogundeji recounted just before the show. “She was the lecturer in charge of the course, ‘DRA 307 -Techniques of Costume, Masks and Make up’ at the department then. She asked me to assist her to work out a project that would help students understand the practicality of the course.

“The same course is taken as a special area of specialisation for final year students with the title, ‘Costume, Masks and Makeup.’ I thought of a fashion show. For the first edition, we did it as a matinee. The following year, I was left to handle the course. That was 2007/2008 class. The students suggested that we did it at night so that we could add some glitz and glamour to it. That was how we started the show”.

In this era of unemployment, Ogundeji is concerned with equipping students with diverse skills to make them self-sufficient before and after graduation. As a result, she tasked the students on working with limited resources by assigning them to create designs using half of a yard of Ankara.

“At a film location, you may find yourself in village or hamlet where you can’t easily get fabrics, and the costumes you take along just are not enough; and you have a director who tells you to prepare for 50-man cast but only adds another 10 at the location; it is always good to have a variety of fabrics to experiment with,’’ she said.

Some of the night’s highlights include calendar-made designs, leaf designs, raffia display, cartoon and monstrous makeup, Batik wears, corporate wears, dinner wears alongside performances by Bhlack, P-Josh, Kheemoya, O’Chizzy, Ariyo, T.M.T and Fraggie. Close to a professional standard, the catwalk jutted out of the proscenium stage to partition the audience into two wings.

Quite impressive too is the scene transition, with no dull moment. The student disc jockeys, Tolu Laloye, VJ Lynz and DJ_Shosho displayed some ‘mad skillz’ with scene appropriate vibes. A case in point was the use of Yoruba classic songs from Adewale Ayuba and Shina Peters for the Tie and Dye Collection which paraded colourful ethnic pieces, inspiring gawks in the packed auditorium as the ‘all numbered’ students danced and pranced along the ramp.

The show altered the lighting structure of the theatre which has traditionally been linear. Perhaps, the most critical segment of ‘Invasion’ was the Gods Versus Aliens, which alluded to the African deities through its eclectic array of masks. Somemoments in ‘Invasion’ were pyrotechnics-worthy but it was a show on budget, sponsored by the students, not the Grammys.

With Adesuwa Omon and Adekola Gbemileke as comperes, the show was witnessed by the Head of Department, Dr. Wumi Raji; the Dean of Faculty of Arts, Prof. GRA Adeoti and other lecturers such as Dr. Bayo Afolabi, Dr. Biodun Olayiwola, Dr. Justin Awuawuer, Mr. S.T. Adeyemi, Mr. Dele Fakeye as well as members of the Awo Varsity Theatre.

Elvis Uwagbenebi Ofeo, the 300-level student event plannerrevealed some of the challenges of working on the project.

“Mrs. Ogundeji always insists on quality and conveying the information to the students is not always easy as they often have different opinions as to how the show should be done. It has been really tough. With the help of our lecturer, we were able to do a lot of research on runway. We read books and checked online.

“But we decided to add some ingenuity to it; not doing it the same way others had done it. I think theatre productions are more intense because you have to work on your script, your lines and your audience,’’ he said.

With its pedagogical tilt, Invasion is indeed a watershed of theory made practical, an enthralling assemblage of visually appetizing pieces. For the students, the world is their runway.