In a groundbreaking initiative that promises to push artistic boundaries and inspire a nation, The Eclipse Theatre Troupe, led by the dynamic quartet of Graciano Enwerem (Sir Grrraciano), Tamara Dogubo, Paul Word Uma, and David Odiase (The 78th Psalmist), embarks on a mission to break the Guinness World Record for the longest theatre performance in Lagos, Nigeria. This visionary endeavor is fueled by a shared passion for showcasing Nigeria’s rich cultural tapestry, fostering community engagement, and elevating the arts on a global stage.
As we delve into the minds of these prolific creatives, we uncover their journey, inspiration, and the collective resolve that propels them towards this historic feat. From the genesis of the idea in 2022 to the challenges faced during preparations, the team’s dedication remains unwavering. With the event scheduled between October 12th-19th, 2024, the anticipation builds for an artistic spectacle that transcends boundaries and captures the essence of Nigeria’s creative spirit.
Join us in this exclusive interview as The Eclipse Theatre Troupe shares their story, insights into the Guinness World Record attempt, and their vision for the impact it could have on Nigeria’s creative community.
Who are you and what are your roles in the Guinness World Record attempt?
My name is Graciano Enwerem (Sir Grrraciano), two-time Nigeria’s Number one contemporary poet, serial author, TEDx speaker, Lecturer, and a media consultant. I’m the Founder of Figures of Speech movement, an online school where I’ve taught over 20,000 artists and mentored 5,000 poets from 2008 till date. I’m also the creative director at The Eclipse Theatre Troupe.
Tamara Dogubo is the founder of Pyros Academy, an institution that coaches poets in writing performance techniques. Her poem, Gucci Cross, went viral last year amongst so many others.
Paul Word excels as both a performance poet and actor. He’s a winner of several slams like War of Words 4, Arthub Spoken Call, Enugu Poetry Slam, etc. He’s appeared in so many movies, including Slum King and Brethren.
David Odiase, also known as The 78th Psalmist, is a storyteller and multidisciplinary artist. He finds fulfillment in expressing the conscious African narrative through poetry, fire-breathing performance, film, and experimental art forms. He’s popular for his poetry documentaries, also called docupoetry. Notably, he was a finalist at the 2023 Emmys’ International Young Creative Award. He’s won several slams like the Kudo Eresia Eke Performance Poetry Prize, and he currently manages a storyteller community called Truemyvoice, who leverage art for advocacy and social change.
Together, we are very successful creatives in our rights and members of The Eclipse Theatre Troupe, seeking to use our art, particularly our plays for massive advocacy and social change by staging our works and setting a world record for the longest theatre performance in Lagos, Nigeria.
What inspired you all to be part of this record-breaking initiative?
As a team, we are inspired by a shared passion for showcasing the rich cultural diversity of Nigeria through a continuous and captivating theater performance. We believe breaking this record not only celebrates our city’s artistic spirit but also highlights our commitment to fostering community engagement and promoting the arts on a global scale.
When did the idea to break the Guinness World Record first come about?
We started nursing the idea in October 2022 after our last event at the Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt when we performed for hours nonstop and agreed to perform for 2 days nonstop just for fun. But that same month, we lost one of us, Chijioke Agwu Ndukwe, in an accident at the Aleto Bridge, Eleme and had to stop thinking about it until March 2023 when Hilda Baci broke her Cookathon record, and a lot of people called our attention to it and said, instead of you guys to do it for fun when you’re fully recovered, why not set a world record doing that? And honestly, setting this world record will mean a lot to us. Particularly, I’m certain that our loved ones that we’ve lost that believed in our arts will be looking at us smiling when we succeed.
Where will the record-breaking event take place?
It’s in Lagos. Definitely in Lagos, Nigeria.
How have preparations been going for the event?
It’s been tough, especially because we’re using a slim budget to work on a fat project, but we’re very resolute to see this through.
What has been the most challenging aspect of preparing for this Guinness World Record attempt?
Getting the best hands and making them as passionate as us. We are calling all the favors from our relationships, those who owe us moral debts, etc. We’re just hoping that our best hands continue to give their best until the final second of the event.
Where do you find the creativity and inspiration for this particular record-breaking endeavor?
It’s from a play we collectively wrote titled, THINGS THAT COME IN THE MORNING. In it, we’ve documented our shared struggles. We’ve had a lot of Ls, and even though to the standard set for creatives like us by the invisible hands of the industries, we’re ‘successful’, we believe we can be more. We believe there’s more to be done.
When did the team come together, and how has the collaboration been throughout this journey?
August 2014. This happened immediately after an event called The Mission Is Possible Conference, curated by Madam Ogechi Mercy Ezekiel at CPM Headquarters, Ajao Estate, Lagos.
Who are the key individuals contributing to the project, and how do their roles complement each other?
Graciano Enwerem (Sir Grrraciano), Tamara Dogubo, Paul Word Uma, and David Odiase (The 78th Psalmist) are all Spoken word poets and playwrights who have won numerous slams and awards and who believe in utilizing arts for advocacy and social change.
How do you envision the impact of breaking this record on the creative community in Nigeria?
Breaking this record holds the potential to significantly hold the creative community in Nigeria to the light. It will inspire emerging artists, fostering a sense of possibility and encouraging them to push boundaries. The global recognition resulting from this achievement will not only attract attention to the wealth of talent in Nigeria but also open up new avenues for collaboration, cultural exchange, and international partnerships. Ultimately, our success in breaking this record will contribute to positioning Nigeria as a vibrant hub for creativity and artistic innovation.
What are your backgrounds in the creative industry, and how does it contribute to this record attempt?
We’re all successful poets in our rights and all involved in performance art. Paul Word Uma is a professional actor and poet, David Odiase is popular for the performances of his docupoetry on an international level, Tamara Dogubo is popular for not only performing poetry but for teaching performance. She even taught at the Port Harcourt Poetry Festival recently. And I, asides writing and performing, I teach performance too, and I’ve ghost-written a lot of popular plays, including screenplays that got to Netflix as well.
Considering the fact that our paths crossed a long time ago (2014), and we’ve been members of a lot of groups including Figures of Speech movement and The Eclipse Theatre Troupe, we have come a long way relationship-wise, so we know our individual weaknesses and strengths, and are collectively committed to helping one another to make this work.
When did you all discover your passion for creativity, and how has it evolved over time?
I’ve been scribbling what I thought was poetry since 2002, but I’ve been performing other people’s poems in primary school, (Bagauda School of Talents, Kano State) from 1993-1995 before we moved. I met Paul Word Uma physically at The Mission Is Possible Conference, 2014, and he joined FOS (Figures of Speech). Before then he was already writing page poems and needed guidance on doing spoken word poetry professionally. Tamara and I had been online buddies until we met at a slam where I was a judge and she was one of the favorites to win it. She’s mentioned it so many times in our conversations that her Dad’s transition really inspired her to start writing and performing actively. David Odiase is one of my beloved creatives. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the standard for anyone that wants to grow using poetry. He’s been writing before we met in 2015.
Where do you all see yourself in the creative landscape in the next five years?
If everything goes as planned, we hope to do more of what we’ve been doing, knowing that we have more eyeballs on our craft.
Who are your personal creative influences or role models?
For me, it’s always been the two WSs (William Shakespeare and Prof Wole Soyinka). But when I got into school it became Prof Isidore Diala, Prof Niyi Osundare, Sammy Sage Hassan, Dr Sam Dede, and my friend, Dan Kpodoh. For Tamara Dogubo, it’s been Jackie Hill Perry. This is the same for Paul Word Uma. He also adores Amir Sulaiman, Suli Breaks, and Joshua Bennett. As long as I can remember, even though David Odiase has never referred to anyone as his role model, I know he admires a lot of amazing performers. Performers such as Qudus Onikeku and Ozegbe Sunday.
How do you balance your creative pursuits with your personal life and other commitments?
For me, my creative pursuits have also been my personal life. Sadly, outside my work, I’ve never had anything else going for me. I lectured in a tertiary institution, and even though it was poetry I was teaching, I returned to full-time poetry writing, performance, and branding later.
I also have this work ethic where I do every part of my work that requires only my input at night and do the ones that require the input of others in the day.
And maybe, the reason I’ve found satisfaction in focusing on only poetry is that just as the unwritten rule in graphic design says two font styles only but you can italicize, embolden or underline the two chosen styles to increase the variety, I’ve been doing a lot of different things with poetry. So, even though they’re all linked to poetry, these are different specifications. For instance, with poetry, I write powerful copies. With poetry, I ghostwrite songs. With poetry, I brand businesses. Several varieties, same art. That’s how I get my balance.
When is the official date and time for the Guinness World Record attempt?
Between the 12th-19th of October 2024.
What are the specific rules and guidelines set by Guinness World Records for this record?
Immediately after we got their consent to break the record, we received a 38-pages long document containing the rules for breaking the event. 80% of these rules nearly threw us off balance and changed a lot of dynamics regarding the plans we had. Chief amongst rules like these was the rest breaks allowed. We are expected to switch scenes in 2 minutes and plays in 5 minutes. We must have at least 20 people in the audience and can’t repeat the audience after 4 hours. This includes times like 2 am, 3 am when people are supposed to be in their house resting. And of course, no member of the team can join the audience. So, we’d have to get a real unrepeatable audience of at least 20 people every 4 hours, including off-peak periods.
Where can people witness the event, and will it be open to the public?
We’re still in contact with Pop Central to have it live-streamed all through. We will stream it on Instagram and YouTube, and yes, it’s open to the public to come watch from within the Hall or stay at the overflow outside on the screens. The tickets are going to be available on our website at https://theeclipseevent.com
Who are the key sponsors or supporters contributing to the success of the Guinness World Record attempt?
Even though there are a lot of prospects here and there, aside from Kingmaker Publishers, we don’t have sponsors or any form of support yet.
How can individuals and the community at large get involved or support the record-breaking initiative?
We need more volunteers to join us to make the tasks easier; we need funds for equipment, a place to accommodate all 238 people in the workforce, we need people to join the trade fair… We need all the support we can get. We need influencers to increase the buzz. At the moment, I don’t think any kind of support will be turned down. Like my grandma would always say, anything weh bite us for night na mosquito (laughs).
What impact do you hope breaking this Guinness World Record will have on the creative community in Nigeria?
Because the reward for good work is more work, and just the same way we got inspired to do this, it’ll inspire a lot of creatives to do more with their art. As Nigerians, we have a lot of resolve. Our resilient spirits are infectious and are visible in our art. The more we showcase these artworks, the more resolute people like us become.
When do you anticipate receiving official confirmation from Guinness World Records about the record attempt’s success?
A few weeks after submitting our evidence. If we pay for priority evidence, then it could happen in less than 4 weeks; if not, it’ll take between 12-15 weeks.
Where will the record-breaking achievement be showcased or celebrated after the event?
We are so open to celebrating with well-meaning Nigerians who think it’s worth celebrating. However, we’ve not made plans regarding where exactly that would happen. Yes, we need more ‘mosquitoes’. (Laughs again).
Who do you envision dedicating the record-breaking achievement to during your victory celebration?
We are dedicating this endeavor to all creatives in Africa. We aspire for our message of hope and trust in the process to reach you promptly. Personally, I would like to dedicate it to Aunty Lucy, Chijioke Agwu Ndukwe, Jubilee, Wildshot, Mohbad, and other creatives we lost in the last couple of months while passionately pursuing their creative endeavors in this country. Our goal is to share our stories with the world, ensuring that they all remain archived in history.
How will the experience of attempting and potentially breaking a Guinness World Record shape your future creative endeavors?
There’ll be more precision as we’ll have more sense of direction and urgency. Like I said before, we’ll know that there are going to be more eyes waiting to assimilate our works. So, we’ll create more, collaborate more, advocate more and effect more changes.