Too Early for Birdsis a show based on stories from the blog Owaahh which shares odd stories from the Kenyan history.
In 2017, Owaahh collaborated with two other writers and performers, Ngartia and Abu Sense, to seek out new ways to tell factual stories from Kenyan history.
They decided to stage the stories at the Kenya National Theatre as a storytelling session.
The aim was to tell Kenyan stories in a fun Kenyan way. It was also to counter the condescending colonial voice that has been used in most historical books by “experts on African History” and give depth to the shallow manner in which our school textbooks are written.
The show enjoyed massive success when it was first staged in May 2017 prompting the production team to stage a second show in June of the same year. Too Early for Birds will be returning to the Kenya National Theatre for the third edition on January 13 and 14 hoping to ride on the success of previous shows.
The latest edition will explore the Kenyan crime scene. They will illustrate the mythical stories about legendary crime busters such as Patrick Shaw and Daniel Seronei.
At the same time, they will walk the audience through times and lives of feared gangsters such as Wanugu, Wacucu, Matheri, Wakinyonga and Shimoli the Jackal.
“In a country that is dealing with heightened levels of crimes and brazen acts of extra-judicial killings, it is important to trace growth of crime in our history,” Ngartia told Nation.co.ke.
“If we don’t learn a thing or two from it, we can at least put a human touch to these stories and see where we have gone wrong, both in creating spaces that allow crime to thrive and in our methods of combating that crime,” he added.
Previous editions focused on unsung Kenyan heroes who contributed greatly to the shaping of our country yet aren’t as celebrated as they ought to be.
These were the likes of Otenyo Nyamaterere, Mũthoni Nyanjirũ, Paul Ngei, Reverend Timothy Njoya, Wangari Maathai and The Bukusu Community at the Chetambe and Lumboka war.
“They say history is written by the victors, and if we fought and won our independence, then we should be able to tell those stories. We should be able to build our modern-day legends. To choose our heroes. To inspire our generation to do bigger and greater things,” he adds.
Too Early For Birds cast is made up of young artists based in Nairobi. They are drawn from various and varied fields such as theatre, TV, film, music among many others.Nation.co.ke had a chat with the team that works behind the scenes.
Miriam, Janet and Zosi Kadzitu are the cogs that turn the huge wheel that is Too Early for Birds. Miriam is the producer of the show, Janet deals with marketing while Zosi is the production manager.
Why the title Too Early for Birds?
Zosi :Well, Owaahh’s blog has the tagline Too Early for Worms. Too Early for Birds was a simple inversion of the tagline. At first we used it as a joke, then that is what we called the Whatsapp group. While looking for a title we went like “Wait, don’t we already have a title?” So that is how the name came about.
How did you get involved with the team?
Miriam:We all knew Abu and Ngartia from the digital marketing agency that we all worked for. After a while they left to focus on this project. When they had managed to work on the idea , they handed over it to us and trusted us to make it happen.
Zosi:Prior to doing Too Early for Birds we had no experience in putting up a theatre show. It was a huge learning experience, baptism by fire. We had to put up the show in two weeks. What that meant was rehearsals, the set, wardrobe , marketing all had to happen in that amount of time.
Your team is made up of relatively young people, ‘millenials’. Was that intentional and how has it helped in relating with the audience?
Zosi :What I would say is that what we are aiming to do is to take a fresh approach with our content. It is very experimental and it is very intentional that it is the young teaching the old things about their country that they did not know about.
Miriam:It has worked to our advantage that we are all relatively young because then everyone has a role to play and no one can lord it over the other person. It is much easier to accept correction, no one takes it personal as opposed to a situation where you might be tempted to feel a certain way if an older person was doing the same.
What did you learn that helped you in subsequent productions?
Miriam :First of all theatre is not easy at all. People invest their time and energy for this. People actually spend sleepless nights to make sure that a show happens.
As the producer, I have learnt about managing resources and also managing expectations. My alias in the team now is Madam Budget Imeisha (laughs).Business and friendships are very different relationships. Even though the cast and crew are friends when it’s time to work, we work.
Zosi :I learnt that anything is possible, if you are determined and you support each other. Also sponsorships are not the only way that things can happen.
We finance these productions from our pockets, manage to pay people and still have a little more to prepare for the next show. Art and business can co-exist.
Janet:I learnt how to manage expectations ,especially from the audience. We sold out one show and therefore the expectation after that is that it shall automatically work for the others, and that we need to grow faster than at the rate we are right now.
Zosi : Owaahh also deserves a lot of credit. He trusted us with the stories, allowed us to switch up the name of the blog for the play. His blog stands for Kenya’s history and he plays such a huge part in the production.
Miriam:We don’t take it for granted that people come for the show.We have loyal people like a young boy Suheilo who has come for every single show we have had.
Someone sent a picture of an audience member who was taking notes during the show.
The biggest honour though is that this show is being used as a Case Study at Kenyatta University. We do this show for our audience and we would not be here if it were not for them.
The 2018 show runs from the 13th to 14th of January 2018 at the Kenya National Theatre. Doors Open at 6.00 pm and the show starts at 7.00 pm. Early Bird tickets retail at Sh. 1000, At the gate Sh 1500. MPESA Till Number: 734196
Ticketing Hotline: 0706 299 032
Additional reporting by Collins Nabiswa