Nollywood Dreams: A note from the Artistic Director

Nollywood Dreams: A note from the Artistic Director

I stumbled onto the script of Nollywood Dreams in the Drama Book Shop in New York where all theatre fans must go when visiting. I read it quickly and decided just as quickly to pursue the rights to produce it at San Francisco Playhouse. The Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh has a show opening on Broadway this Fall, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding and two recent hits at Berkeley Rep, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play and Goddess. She has a delightfully fresh new voice and is a rapidly rising star.

The plot is simple, with themes that may sound familiar. We have heard stories like this before, classic Hollywood romcom movies from the 1930s. But this version takes place in Lagos, Nigeria in the Nollywood film industry which churns out more entertainment than Hollywood and nearly as much as the Bollywood industry in India. Our story takes place in the ‘90s when Nollywood was exploding and resembled our Hollywood of the ‘20s and ‘30s when hundreds of films were being made quickly and sophisticated stories took a back seat to edge of your seat melodrama.

However, as we started working on our budget for this season, Nollywood Dreams seemed expensive; a complex set, the need to shoot a film that would be inside the play, a large cast; and we veered away towards doing a two-character, more well-known title instead. I believe we had already created the poster art for this un-named show when one morning, I got a plaintive call from Margo Hall who would be directing that show. “Can’t we do a comedy?” I laughed, and realized she was right. Every season needs to be a balance between tragedy, comedy and musicals and Margo reminded me we needed more laughter to balance the perpetually tense and tragic world around us. So, we bit the bullet and swung back around to Nollywood Dreams, re-did the art and are so happy we did! Our mission requires us to present theatre that lifts our spirits, deepens self-awareness and promotes compassionate community. Nollywood Dreams is definitely here to lift our spirits to match the hopes and dreams of Ayamma, who knows without any evidence that she has what it takes to be a star, and resolutely follow that dream until she succeeds!


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Bill English is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of San Francisco Playhouse, and in twenty years with Susi Damilano, has guided its growth from a bare-bones storefront to the second-largest theater in San Francisco.

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