Hager Fikir Theatre
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The Hager Fikir Theatre in Addis Ababa is not only the theatre with the greatest tradition in Ethiopia but also the oldest indigenous theatre in Africa. It stands for more than 70 years of cultural life in Addis Ababa. It is a playhouse where modern Ethiopian music and drama were born and nurtured. Many stars like Aster Aweke, Tilahun Gessesse and Frew Hailu began their careers on the stage of Hager Fikir Theatre. Both traditional Ethiopian plays and translations of European playwrights by William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, Henrik Ibsen and Molière have been produced at Hager Fikir Theatre in recent decades.
Hager Fikir Theatre was founded in 1935, when people of Addis Ababa founded "Hager Fikir Maheber" (Association for the love of the Motherland) to stand against the upcoming Italian invasion. The founder, Makonnen Habte-Wold, wanted to encourage the patriotic mettle of the Ethiopian people. The first open-air productions took place at Menelik Square, the city centre of Addis Ababa. Although the Italian occupation could not be prevented, Hager Fikir Theatre survived. However there were few uncritical and fascist-friendly plays brought on stage during the period of occupation.
After the withdrawal of the Italian troops in 1941 the theatre-crew moved from Menelik Square to the place where it is located nowadays in the Piazza district. A former Italian nightclub was reconstructed as a theatre hall. At the 25th anniversary of Haile Selassie’s reign in 1955 the main entrance of the hall was enlarged and an imperial balcony and lounge was built.
During the rule of Haile Selassie the Hager Fikir Theatre grew, although the Emperor established the Haile-Selassie-Theatre (today the National Theatre) as an additional theatre in Addis Ababa. The Hager Fikir Theatre continued as a popular theatre for the common people of the city whereas the Haile-Selassie-Theatre was mainly visited by high class society.
Besides regular performances the Hager Fikir Theatre also broadcast live radio shows on Ethiopian radio. Moreover the troop went on tour regularly, so that people from rural Ethiopia also could have access to the productions of Hager Fikir.
After Haile Selassie and during the Derg Regime the Hager Fikir Theatre continued to produce socialistic plays and performances. Musicians and actors were mostly controlled and the work of the directors was censured by the government. In 1975 the then director Tesfaye Gesesse was arrested for his play "Iqaw" ("The Thing"). It was said to be anti-Derg and anti-revolutionary.
After the downfall of the Derg Regime in 1991, the Hager Fikir Theatre continued its work. Nowadays, more than 100 people work for the theatre, among these are around 40 actors and singers. Movie performances are on schedule most of the days. Theatre plays are performed on weekend and musical shows are on stage on public holidays.