82 garlands for the thespian, Uncle B

Uncle-BIT was the 82nd birthday anniversary of foremost theatre director, teacher and administrator, Professor Bayo Oduneye on Wednesday last week and, as usual, members of the theatre fraternity including his former students, colleagues and the national executives of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners led by its National President Tunde Obalana converged on his residence in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, to celebrate the theatre icon who is popular as ‘Uncle B.’

Those who could not make it to Ijebu-Ode to join in the singing, dancing and drumming pivoted by the NANTAP delegation took to social media to celebrate and acknowledge Uncle B’s legendary contribution to theatre practice. Some, from home and abroad called up the former University teacher and ‘grandmaster’ of the stage as even Uncle B acknowledged that his phone has not stopped ringing.

Best wishes poured in freely on social media for the theatre director whose life has been devoted completely to professional theatre practice.

One of Uncle B’s former student and notable filmmaker Tunde Alabi Hundeyin in a message he posted on facebook described the theatre icon as a ‘fantastic teacher, a profound human being and one whose pivotal role in moulding so many top professionals in the industry today across the Nation has been understated’’. Hundeyin who is best known for producing and directing ‘Iyawo Alhaji’, a movie that is recorded in history as the first to be censored by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) in 1991 also said ‘’Uncle B, still looking ever suave and stylish in advance age. He thought me directing at the University of Ibadan between 1973 and 1976. He cast me as Agbako in Ireke Onibudo in 1974, which made me become a part of the National Troupe for Festac in 1977. The Lord has given you the gift of longevity. I celebrate you today sir”.

Also another of his many students who recalled a recent encounter with Uncle B wrote ‘amazing old man. The first time he took me round his house in Ijebu Ode and told me stories of the pantheons of life and gods; an experience I will never forget. So many encounter with this living legend. From all over the world, we celebrate the enigma, the icon of the stage. Baaaaaba o”.

The party for Uncle B will continue this Saturday November 14 as part of the 17th Lagos Book and Arts Festival. Dubbed the Book and Arts Festival party, the event which will hold at the main stage of the Freedom Park, Lagos beginning at 7pm is also designed to celebrate landmark birthdays of distinguished contributors to Nigerian arts and cultural life. On the bill are celebrated icons of the arts like Dele Jegede, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Fred Agbeyegbe, Demas Nwoko, Muyiwa Oduyoye, Sam Amuka Pemu and former Federal Director of Culture Frank Aig-Imoukhuede. However, the NANTAP will anchor the feast for Bayo Oduneye at the event.

A consummate theatre director and stage manager, who has trained a whole generation of theatre artistes in the country, Bayo Oduneye was lecturer on Directing and Stage Management at the University of Ibadan for nearly five decades before retiring and taking up post-retirement service with the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ogun State. He served as Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria between 1991 and 2000.

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