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Wole Oguntokun, renowned playwright, director, is dead

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Wole Oguntokun, renowned playwright, director, is dead Published By: Ayorinde Oluokun

By Nehru Odeh

The Nigerian literary community is still coming to terms with the untimely demise of renowned playwright, producer, director and culture advocate, Wole Oguntokun. Oguntokun died in Canada on March 26, 2024. Though the details are sketchy, his death has sent shock waves across the literary world. He was aged 57.

Though trained as a lawyer at the Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Lagos, Oguntokun was known as a quintessential playwright and director who displayed so much passion for theatre and popularized it.

Not only was he known for his incisive plays that often tackled pressing social issues, he was also famous as a producer and director.

Before he relocated to Canada, he had created the annual Season of Soyinka, which is entering its 9th season. In each season, the plays of the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, are staged at Terra Kulture in Lagos. His works, which resonated with audiences globally for their depth and cultural significance, received international recognition. He was also a fellow of many international theatrical bodies.

Not only was Oguntokun a multiple award- winner, he produced and directed plays by many of Nigeria’s best-known playwrights including Soyinka’s (Kongi’s Harvest, Madmen & Specialists, The Lion and the Jewel, The Swamp Dwellers, Death and the King’s Horseman, The Strong Breed, Childe Internationale, Camwood on the Leaves, The Jero Plays); Osofisan’s Morountodun, Once Upon Four Robbers, The Engagement, The Inspector and the Hero; Professor Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame; Zulu Sofola’s King Emene, Wedlock of the Gods, Wizard of Law, as well as Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead.

Known for his tireless passion and enthusiasm for theatre, his career was marked by a series of notable achievements. It included the establishment of the Theatre Republic in Lagos, a creative space that has nurtured countless Nigerian artistes and performers. His commitment to the arts was unwavering, and he played a pivotal role in promoting Nigerian theatre on the world stage.

His plays, characterised by their poignant storytelling and sharp wit, have been staged in various countries, bringing Nigerian narratives to a broader audience.

Oguntokun’s influence extended beyond the theatre, as he was also a mentor to many young artists, guiding them with his experience and insight.

Born on July 15 1967, Oguntokun was the artistic director of Theatre Planet Studios and Renegade Theatre as well as well as a member of the board of Theaturtle, a Canadian theatre company. He was also a theatre administrator and newspaper columnist.

Oguntokun held a Bachelor of Laws from the Obafemi Awolowo University, as well as Master of Laws (LL.M) and Master of Humanitarian and Refugee Studies degrees, from the University of Lagos.

He emerged as a player on the Nigerian Theatre landscape between September and December 1998 with his productions of his satirical stage drama Who’s Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, a lampoon of the Nigerian military in governance.

He wrote and directed plays including Who’s Afraid of Wole Soyinka in May 2002; Rage of the Pentecost – August 2002; Ladugba! – September 2002; and The Other Side – November 2002.

His other plays include “Piper Piper”, his adaptation of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” in March 2003;[7] and Gbanja Roulette, in May and July 2003.

He headed the writing team that adapted Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues for Nigeria. The result was V Monologues-The Nigerian Story, which he directed in March 2008 at the National Arts Theatre, Terra Kulture, The Muson Centre (all in Lagos) and at The Women’s Development Centre and the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.

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