The Generation of Plays
Now in paperback!

The Generation of Plays

Yoruba Popular Life in Theater
Karin Barber
Distribution: World
Publication date: 2/28/2003
Format: paper 504 pages, 64 b&w photos, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
5 x 16
ISBN: 978-0-253-21617-5
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Winner of the 2001 Herskovits Award. George Freedley Memorial Award Finalist.
NEW CATALOG COPY (announcing paperback edition):
In The Generation of Plays, Karin Barber recounts the history of the Odin Adéjobi Theater Company and uncovers the pulse points of generation, production, and improvisation that merge when a Yorùbá popular drama is brought to the stage. This rich and detailed book opens a window into the social and cultural worlds of actors and audiences.

"Karin Barber has given us a vivid picture of one of the most vital forms of modern African popular art. It is beautifully written and informed by a deep affection for the subject . . . . a major contribution to the cultural history of Nigeria." —J. D. Y. Peel

From the 1940s to the 1980s, Yoruba popular theater was one of the most spectacularly successful theaters in Africa. Today, these traveling companies have virtually disappeared, largely as a result of economic hardship and the rise of video entertainment. In The Generation of Plays, Karin Barber recounts the history of the Oyin Adejobi Theatre company. Drawing on archival sources as well as extensive interviews and transcriptions of plays, Barber uncovers the pulse points of generation, production, and improvisation that merge when a Yoruba popular drama is brought to the stage. Barber reveals the personalities of the principal actors, how plays are created—from the germ of an idea through the logistics of rehearsal and staging—how a play is made meaningful to its audience, and how a play changes and develops after several productions or according to the sensibilities of its viewers. The expansion of popular drama into television is also considered. This rich and detailed narrative illuminates notions of gender, language, politics, and self as they are expressed in popular cultural forms. It affords a unique view of the social and cultural perspectives of the actors and audiences involved in what was a flourishing and vital enterprise.


"During the decade of huge oil revenues (c.1975–85), scores of Yorùbá (Yoruba) troupes produced popular theater throughout southwestern Nigeria. As one element of a more general cultural efflorescence, performances entertained people in genres and language of their own choosing. Plays addressed such issues as far-reaching transformations unleashed by cash-crop farming, urbanization, [and] wage labor derived from increasing globalization, yet through popular theater, these same issues could be understood for their deeply local impacts. Barber has been an innovative leader in studies of African popular culture, and here she joins a small cadre of scholars (notably led by Johannes Fabian) in investigating culturally and historically particular expressive forms as examples of dramatic genres increasingly found throughout the continent. Using an engaging narrative style, Barber tracks the career of Oyin Adéjobí (Adejobi) , an actor, producer, and fascinating character in his own right. She details how actors were selected and trained, how plays were developed, how shows were gotten on the road, and who their audiences were. Barber is at her best in situating popular theater in contemporary culture, as Yorùbá (Yoruba) seek to understand the complex and competing demands of their evolving circumstances. Graduate students and faculty." —A. F. Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles , Choice , November 2001

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Table of Contents

Preliminary :

A Note on Orthography
1. Introduction
2. The History of a Founder, a Genre, and a Public
3. The Actors
4. Getting a Show on the Road
5. The Generation of Plays
6. The Filling Out a Play
7. Audiences
8. Television, Film, and Video
9. The World of the Work: Place, Gender, and Politics
10. Literacy, "Enlightenment," and "Tradition"
11. Work, Destiny, and Self-making
12. Language and the Moral Public
13. Conclusion: The Lessons of Example
Appendix 1: Synopses
Appendix 2: Yorùbá Text of a Sene from Taking Care of Kúnlé