By Yinka Olatunbosun
Contrary to the grand prize tradition that attracted literati in large gatherings, the 2020 grand finale of the 3rd Beeta Playwright Competition held on Wednesday, July 22 was a virtual event which was no less inspiring and intriguing. The decision to hold a virtual event was founded on the restrictions imposed on social gathering to control the spread of the Covid-19 infection.
It was an hour-long event which had in attendance, sterling actors and industry stakeholders in Nigera and diaspora including Bolanle Austen-Peters, Ahmed Yerima, Jahman Anikulapo, Yemisi Wada, Ego Boyo, Dipo Agboluaje, Kemi Adesoye etc.
For the 2020 edition, the Beeta Universal Arts Foundation team (BUAF) led by the award-winning actress, producer, and performing artist, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, received over 442 entries from 30 States in Nigeria including the FCT and the diaspora. Ten finalists were on the shortlist that was compiled by the panel of Judges (Professor Ahmed Yerima, Nwakaego Boyo, Kenneth Uphopho, Ayo Jaiyesimi, Shaibu Husseini, and Ibiso Graham-Douglas) and a virtual training session was organized for them.
Chioma Achalugo Ezekobe’s play “Daughters of the East” emerged winner of the 3rd BPC joining Paul Ugbede’s “Our Son the Minister” and Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim’s “Jagagba” in the repertoire of BPC winners. Ronke Gbede’s “Barrister of Fiditi” emerged first runner up and Temilolu Fosudo’s “Milk Honey and What Not” as the second-runner up.
While reflecting on the competition, Graham-Douglas, who is passionate about empowering the next generation of writers explained the rationale behind this literary context.
“I created this initiative to find new voices in the literary genre of drama in Nigerian Literature and through this platform, I am able to develop talent, empower the next generation of playwrights in the country and the whole ecosystem of performing arts. I am particularly pleased about this edition because of the female representation in the top ten and I am elated that this initiative is promoting inclusion as one of the finalists has a hearing impairment,’’ she revealed.
For her, the competition has brought her enormous boost of confidence, provided opportunities to document authentic stories and impact communities positively.
From inception to date, Beeta Playwright Competition has received over 1000 entries, published two plays with the third in production, had ten stage productions, and also has testimonials of finalists and winners doing amazing in their own careers such as winning the NLNG Prize for Literature and writing the critically acclaimed Moremi the Musical.
The winner of this edition, Ezekobe gets N1m, a publishing deal with PaperWorth Books Limited and a production for her play.
In her acceptance speech, Ezekobe said: “There is nothing like when I write something and it can move from being in a folder on my laptop to what people can see, read and discuss. It is a validation that one is doing something right. Thank you Beeta for this opportunity.”
Other finalists include Agnes Stephens, Udeme Ralph, Minna Davies, Oluchi Agbanyim, Yemi Akande, Oche Anejo, Gloria Ajayi Asokolo.
The Competition was proudly sponsored by Union Bank and the Head Corporate Affairs and
Corporate Communication, Union Bank, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem commended the effort of the writers and reiterated the bank’s support for the arts.
“Union Bank is pleased to once again partner with Beeta Universal Arts Foundation for the third
edition to deliver this worthy competition. As a bank that has been around for over 100 years, we recognize how invaluable the arts is to preserving and showcasing our culture and history, which is why we remain committed to developing the talent in the creative industry.”
BPC was also supported by NIMASA, PaperWorth Books Limited, Chairborne Nigeria Limited, Olajide and Oyewole LLP, YNaija, Syncity and Guardian Nigeria Newspaper.
Beeta Universal Arts Foundation is Nigeria’s foremost organization focused on creating platforms for development in Nigeria’s performing arts industry through productions, art education, competition and outreach. BUAF has created opportunities for over two thousand individuals, was commissioned by UNESCO World Book Capital, produced over sixty plays, and recently improved the learning environment in the University of Port-Harcourt Creative Arts departments after they won the Beeta Campus Challenge.