One of Ghana’s most renowned playwrights, James Ebo Whyte, has revealed that his enduring career in theatre came by accident. It was not on the cards at all.
Speaking in an interview on GBC’s Legends of Our Time programme, Ebo Whyte disclosed that while in secondary school, a final year student from the School of Performing Arts was sent to their school to produce a play.
He explained that at the time it was the norm for the Performing Arts students to be sent to other schools for such tasks as part of their project work.
The director, he said, employed the services of the drama troupe but he, Uncle Ebo as he is affectionately called, was not a part of that group.
“I was a very timid boy. I kept very much to myself, but I was fascinated with what they were doing,” Uncle Ebo said.
Because of his fascination with the production the troupe and director were putting up, he would always stand by the window and watch as they practised.
He noted that he “wished I was in there but knowing that I didn’t have the courage to walk through the door.”
However, on one occasion, the rehearsals were not going as smoothly as the director had hoped and the main character had failed to show up on time.
He explained that everybody at the rehearsal had a role to play and so there was no one to read the part of the main character without losing another.
“He [the director] looks round and in desperation, he sees me in the window and says, ‘Hey, you, come in’. And even though I was alone in the window, I still looked behind me, because I couldn’t believe that he called me.”
“Who would ever call me? So, I looked behind me, He said, why are you looking behind you? You’re the only one there come. So, I timidly walked in and then he gives me the script and says, Read this for us.”
Uncle Ebo said he took the script, proceeded to read and 10 minutes later a perplexed director stopped him, asking if he had ever performed that play before – to which he answered no.
He explained that “In three weeks I’ve been standing in the window, I had memorized the whole play. Okay? So, I wasn’t using the script. But not only that, I had memorized the directions he was giving the main character, and the guy was struggling with.”
“I could do it without him having to tell me, move right, move left, use this hand, don’t use this other hand. I had memorized those things,” he added.
Uncle Ebo Whyte said that the role was then given to him and the lead actor lost the part. “That is how I got an introduction to theatre…I got into theatre by accident,” he insisted.
Uncle Ebo has gone on to write, direct and produce 50 plays as of October 2022.
Some of them include What Dad Left Behind, Devil’s Wife, Different Shades of Women”, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, Life is Someway, The Day Dad Came, Sins of the Fathers, Trials of the Ghanaian, Don’t Mess with a Woman, Everyone Has a Secret, Apartment N1, What’s My Name 2013, Men Run, Women Cry and Last Flight.
He is also the founder of the production house, Roverman Productions. Through Roverman, Ebo Whyte puts on stage plays at the National Theatre every quarter.