When many people think about creativity, they rarely remember theatre artists. Those guys who, with so much emotion and effort, set stages alight with their interpretation of characters that hit closer to home than most. The theatre is where art meets life, life imitates art, and art becomes life. Theatre is awesome, and even more so with actors like Awesome Duru.
The theatre is where dreams find a proper expression because many playwrights with a social consciousness have brought their revolutionary dreams to life on all the stages of the world. Despite the immense power of the theatre, it is still massively underrated and largely overlooked. Theatre acts struggle to be seen because of this and have to diversify their acting skills by making the move to the big screen. But Awesome Duru is sticking to his guns and has pledged to the Gods of the Arts to make theatre cool again.
Awesome Duru (real name Emmanuel Uche Duru) is a self-taught theatre actor, stage manager and producer. He is passionate about bringing stories to life and the best way he enjoys it is in front of a live audience. Awesome Duru is passionate about what he does and says that passion, more than anything, is his driving force as a theatre actor.
“There was nothing I loved more than acting. I loved being in the spotlight,” Awesome Duru says. “Right from primary school, I’d gather my friends at my place and start telling them jokes and acting for them. Even in my Junior secondary school days, I was always called upon to come and entertain the whole school with my jokes and act. Eventually, I learnt over the years, that you will be very happy and fulfilled if you are getting paid to do what you love. And so I made my choice,” he added.
That realisation hit him while he was a student of the University of Lagos, making people happy with his talents as a member of the “Guild of Saints” theatre group. Before the Guild of Saints theatre group, Awesome Duru only did it for the love of it; for passion. Now, it is that passion that drives him to do all he can to make theatre cool again while making a living from it.
Awesome Duru wasn’t always a theatre person, despite being passionate about staging plays. He had to start afresh and make a career change to get to where he is now. “I’ve been doing this for a while, but so far, it’s still a whole new experience for me,” Awesome says. “It hasn’t been easy at all, I must confess. But one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that nothing good comes easy. There have been times when I just wanted to give up because I had a lot of doubts about myself. But I’m happy I’m still here pushing harder,” he adds.
Actors get a lot of rejections. Awesome Duru, while still in his Guild of Saints theatre group in the university, was hit hard with that reality after making a decision to take his acting to the next level. “Back in school I went for auditions, got callbacks, but at the last stage when push came to shove, I lacked that depth that was needed because [being an actor] was still a hobby to me,” he says of his earliest rejections.
“Until I met a great theatre director, Mr Ifeanyi Eziukwu, who shaped me and is still shaping me. I acted in one of his plays during the Lagos Theatre festival and there the journey started,” Awesome adds. It has been a long road, full of lessons for Awesome Duru, who has shared the stage with many of the greats in the Nigerian theatre space. Awesome has been on projects both as an actor and a crew member with the likes of Segun Adefila and Bolanle Austen-Peters. Yet, this is not enough for him to cut himself some slack in the industry.
I asked Awesome Duru why he persists despite knowing that he may never “blow” as a theatre act. “I know sometimes it might be perceived as stupidity,” he said. “How can one chase a dream that is blurry? One that is not certain, where the chances of success are even very slim? Even the actors don’t have money!
Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s a fact, but all I know is that I will keep pushing till I make my breakthrough,” he says with conviction. “I believe I was created for something great and I can’t achieve that greatness by making excuses and being afraid of failure. If I fail, fine; but it will never be because I didn’t try,” he adds.
Awesome Duru continues: “The theatre is very cool. It’s a hidden world because people know it exists but they don’t look for it or pay attention to it. I want to make it cool to become a theatre actor for my generation. I want to create a legacy that people will remember for years to come. I would love for my story to be written and played out on stage. So you see why I can’t relent.”
And Awesome Duru is right. Theatre is so cool. If you’ve ever been to a play before, you’ll understand. If you haven’t, there are really no words to describe it – you just have to experience it yourself. There’s no reason why it should be this overlooked by many in Nigeria, but Awesome believes that the players are not doing enough investing in theatre and marketing of theatre to make it appealing to the general public.
“The theatre is neglected by many, but there you find real, talented and awesome actors and directors,” Awesome Duru says. “Screen actors are paid more and are more popular, but theatre actors are also an amazing set of actors. I feel there isn’t much investment in theatre and that’s why it’s still overlooked. We should try to invest more in theatre because that is where the soul of this nation lives. Art is life.”
Indeed, art is life. The stage is where its substance resides. And there are so many hidden gems, like Awesome Duru, waiting to be seen. But not to worry. It isn’t too late. You can start your theatre journey by following Awesome on his Instagram (@awesome_duru) as he chronicles his set life.
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