Summer Theatre Workshop: Zingui Centre Hosts Italian, Cameroonian Comedians

The three-week study tour and training focused on theatre, dance and stage storytelling.

For 22 years running, Zingui Theatre Centre located in the Yaounde neighbourhood of Ekoumdoum has been organising bi-annual summer theatre workshops for Cameroonian and foreign artistes. Founded by ace actor, theatre director, storyteller…., David Noundji, Zingui Centre this year held the artists come-together from July-August 2023. It was jointly organised as part of the artistic Italian-Cameroonian collaboration between MaiSentiti Association, Milan, Italy and Zingui Centre, Yaounde.

Study Tour, Theatre Training     
The three-week cultural exchange comprised a study tour of the North, West, South West, Littoral and Centre Regions. And tutorials on theatre, dance and storytelling. “I was honoured to be trained as a theatre actor in Cameroon where I lived for four and half years before returning home to Italy,” remembered Leonardo Garzolla, a theatre director, playwright, actor and trainer of actors, from the MaiSentiti Association, Milan, Italy. 
“I thought it wise to give back what I learnt in Cameroon. From time to time, I bring Italian actors from Milan to Cameroon to learn African and Cameroonian theatre in aspects such as storytelling, dance, as well as discover the country’s cultures and traditions,” said Leonardo.

For Comedians, Only!
“This year we brought seven Italian actors who worked with two Cameroonian counterparts. We took them to four regions. They also had time to discover the city of Yaounde. We spent time preparing for the show of August 15, 2023, with all the trainers being Cameroonian – a singer and a dance theatre actor,” Leonardo disclosed. “The workshop covered topics such as dance, singing, play acting and storytelling, which is very important in Cameroonian culture. Narration or story telling was the main topic. That is what we wanted to teach them during the rehearsals that lasted a week,” he said. 

Sharing African, European Experiences
After living in Cameroon for four and half years where he learnt everything about theatre, Leonardo returned to Italy to complete his training with aspects of European theatre. “That is where I conceived this new type of theatre whereby we fish between African and European theatre, which is very enriching,” he recalled. 

First Time For Actors
This year was however the first time Leonardo would bring to Cameroon a team of actors. “In the past, we came with people who were more interested in discovering Cameroonian culture only. So, not all of those who came in the past were actors. This is the first year we brought in people who are all actors. I am personally satisfied with what they achieved,” Garzolla said. 

Thanks To David Noundji       
“Without the help of David Noundji, the trip and workshop would have been impossible. I compare him to finger nails and we are the nail tips. Without the finger nails, the nail tips will fall off. Without David Noundji, it will be impossible to organise the theatre encounters. And we do a great job together!” Leonardo Garzolla commented. 

New Participants, New Story Line 
According to David Noundji, the founder of Zingui Theatre Centre, Ekoumdoum, Yaounde, what was new this year in the bi-annual theatre workshop was the new group of Italian actors and the story line - “The three young men and Kaiser’s daughter,” a story by an anonymous author from Cameroon oral tradition. “We always innovate because summer theatre workshops are not repetitions," Noundji cautioned. 

22 Years Of Success 
“We have been organising the bi-annual theatre workshop with foreign participants since 22 years today. And it has always been successful. Those who have watched the closing performances have always gone away satisfied,” Noundji added. 

Lesson From Story
“The three young men and Kaiser’s daughter” is the story of three young men who all agree for one to get married to the King’s daughter. Each of them works hard to resurrect the dead King’s daughter. But when the King decides to offer his resurrected daughter in marriage to the one who brought her back to life, the three young men start fighting for their own interests. Thus, ego or individual interest sets in, overriding the overall good. This is the morale of the story. The tendency to give more attention to individual interest than to general interest,” Noundji pointed out. 

Of Storytellers, Comedians 
“The seven Italian artists who came this year were new. Leonardo Garzzola was the stage director. We worked together and coordinated the workshop. The Italian team was made up entirely of comedians, who are quite different from stage storytellers. Storytellers play several personae in the same performance. A storyteller can be a comedian, but a comedian cannot be a storyteller. A comedian plays only one role, one person in a performance. In other words, a storyteller is a multitalented artist, while a comedian is not necessarily so,” Noundji clarified.   

Sacrifice Not In Vain    
Nevertheless, the workshop went well according to Noundji because Italian artists who choose to attend the workshop make a heavy financial sacrifice. “They believe in it and put in every effort to succeed. They are determined, passionate artists who do everything to achieve their objective. The final show, though not perfect, was not bad either,” David Noundji commented.  

Next Centre Activity      
Meanwhile, Zingui Centre will as from August 22, 2023 to September 2, 2023 host a national workshop for comedians from the West, Littoral, North and Centre Regions. The closing performance holds on September 2, 2023 in the French Institute of Cameroon, Yaounde. 

Comedy Is Totally Different!
“I have worked with Italian actors before, but never with the team that came this year. I came to learn. As a comedian, I was interested in learning about storytelling and I learnt a lot. Comedy is totally different from storytelling. I have watched people tell stories on stage before, but I never tried it. Now, I can do it – e...

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