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Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Mũmbi Kaigwa

Mumbi Kaigwa, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActor, writer and theatre producer
Nairobi, KENYA

LPTW’s 30th anniversary coincides with my 50th (in April). The received wisdom is that women don’t reveal their age, but in my part of the world, I once read a statistic that said on average, woman here don’t live past 40, so for me, it is something to celebrate. In times gone by, it was also a source of pride to grow older, as you could pass on your wisdom to a younger generation. I try to do this through the work I choose.

Eleven years ago I began on this journey of full-time acting, followed some years later with writing, producing and more recently directing, mostly because I wanted my work to be more relevant to my environment. Even when I produce or perform the published works of others, it’s important to me that my audience can find themselves in the work and that the production asks meaningful questions.

I began to write in 2001, and though I didn’t know it then the question I was interested in showed up in all my plays, which have become a trilogy of musical performances (in the sense that they include live performances of traditional African music), with dance and narration. The three “plays” deal with dreams and what happens when a dream is deferred, and more importantly what happens when you allow your dream to take shape within this lifetime; the fear and the elation.

I’m celebrating my half centenary with a revival of some of my favourites. Beginning in November 2011 with Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, the season includes some Alan Bennett, some short plays from the Humana Festival, some Margaret Edson, some Ntozake Shange. All this is subject to getting the rights, of course. The year will end with the third play in the trilogy mentioned above, They Call Me Wanjikũ, a semi-autobiographical journey.

I join my fellow family members in the LPTW in celebrating 30 years of increased visibility and opportunities for women in theatre. Mubarikiwe (Blessings).

Born in Kenya, Mũmbi Kaigwa began acting at age 10, appearing in school productions and on local television with her uncle. Theatre remained a close companion all through high school and college. In 1999, Mũmbi left her “proper” job with the United Nations to devote her life to performance. http://theartscanvas.com

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