The art of writing is not an ability that comes on a silver platter as it takes a real gem to be able to put together a number of words that have the ability to touch people and affect mind-sets. People with such rare talent of writing are not that easy to come by and are born once in a generation. It therefore comes as no surprise that, names such as William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell have forever been on the lips of people even after their death as they have made indelible marks in the history books.
Ghana as a country is also fortunate to have its own “William Shakespeare” in the person of Uncle Ebo Whyte. Mr. James Ebo Whyte is a Ghanaian Playwright, Author and Motivational Speaker. He is the Lead Writer at Roverman Productions and has written over 42 plays for stage.
Mr. Whyte attended the Osu Presby Senior High School and the University of Ghana where he studied to become a Statistician. He later taught himself to sit for the Chartered Accounts and Marketing exam and worked as the head of marketing and finance in a bookselling company for a period of time before pursuing his passion as a playwright. Uncle Ebo started his career as an artistic director with a theatre group which performed in schools and churches in 1974. He then, later decided to challenge himself by venturing into commercial theatre in the late 90s.
As part of celebrating a person with such a rare personality, Change Agent Media interviewed Ghana’s most famous Playwright to share his success story. This, we believe would ginger up the youth especially the young ones with the passion for writing to stay focused and keep pushing for their dreams to come true. Stay back and enjoy an intriguing interview with this amazing personality.
Sir, tell us how you were brought up, the challenges and the lessons you learnt from?
Answer: I was brought up by my mother, Madam Ama Essamah, a feisty, fishmonger and the strongest woman I know. We lived in Kumasi, South Suntreso. I was the first of five boys and my mother expected me to be more outgoing like my younger brother and said so many times. She said I was too timid and dull for her son and never understood how she could have given birth to the likes of me, so she doted on my kid brother. From that I learnt how to be and accept myself without apologies. And from my mother, I learnt how to stand up for myself; hard work and discipline.
Please how did you get the title “Uncle” Ebo Whyte?
Answer: That, together with ‘Roverman’ were nicknames given to me by Tommy Annan Forson, who was then the presenter of the Super Morning Show on Joy FM.
Who were the people you looked up to or inspired you while growing up?
Ans: At a very young age I decided to pick role models from the Bible, so my role models were Joseph, David, Daniel etc. And I also believe that your life has value when you learn from those who have lived longer than you so at a certain point in my life most of my friends were older than me, most times twice, thrice my age.
How did you end up in the Theatre industry even though you studied Statistics at the University of Ghana?
Answer: I joined J-Theatre in 1974, a drama troupe of Youth for Christ and by some twist of fate, had to play a role I never rehearsed for. The cast for the role did not turn up for the production, and I stepped up. Not long after, the Artistic Director was transferred out of Accra, and he recommended me to become the Artistic Director. I then started writing and directing plays for J Theatre.
Theatre is what God has led me to so at some point in my career, I decided that I would go ahead and work with the talent God has given me.
How many stage plays have you produced so far?
Answer: I have had three phases on this journey and my combined output from all the phases is about 63 plays and counting.
What are some of your achievements that inspire you to do more?
Answer: I believe that the testimonies that come to me every quarter when people watch our plays is enough to prove that God uses my work to do great things, that alone is a reason to continue.
What has been the most challenging part of your career?
Answer: Making theatre an integral part of the Ghanaian social life; marketing theatre to Ghanaians on such a consistent basis.
As a family man how do you balance work and family life?
Answer: I thank God that I’ve been blessed with the kind of wife I have, a very understanding one. I make an intentional effort to make time for my wife anytime she wants to talk. You see, she allows me to work so whenever she needs it, I give her my time. Very early in our marriage we read a book titled ‘I married a bestseller’ written by Sheila Hailey, wife of Arthur Hailey, the then best-selling writer in the world and it has been very helpful in our union and balancing work and family life. Wife or Arthur Hailey
What are some of the things you are proud of when you look back as you celebrate your 66th Birthday?
Answer: My relationship with God. I am very glad that I was led to become a Christian, and that God has allowed me to impact so many lives with the talent He has given me.
As you celebrate your 66th Birthday, what has been your fulfilment in life and the legacy you would want to live behind for the next generation?
Answer: My fulfilment is that I am still relevant at 66, after 46 years in theatre. I would leave posterity to decide on the legacy I may leave.
What is your greatest fear in life?
Answer: That my end will not honor God till the very end of my life. I wouldn’t want to fail along the line.
In your opinion, how do you think the youth of today should take advantage of current technological advancement?
Answer: With wisdom and care. Privacy is important so master the technology and don’t let it master you, use it to learn and become better, it’s just a tool.
Social media and democracy has made it easy for the youth to disrespect leaders who can be their fathers and mothers, what advice do you have for them?
Answer: The premise of the question is wrong, if the youth are disrespectful it has nothing to do with democracy or social media. If the youth are disrespectful, it’s because their parents have stopped being the kind of example they need.
We are now in an era where parents are so busy and do not get time for their children, what is your advice to parents?
Answer: Make time for your children, before the wrong people do. You must be intentional about your relationship with your children. The bible admonishes us to train up our children in the way they should go and when they grow, they will not depart from it; the internet doesn’t train anyone especially children, it’s a receptacle of information – both good and bad.
Advising the youth in career selection, should the dream be about the lucrative aspect or about self-fulfillment?
Answer: Enjoy whatever you do. Do what you enjoy. With that, you won’t go to work unhappy every day. Self-fulfilment is different to being in God’s will, and that should be the focus of any young person thinking about their career- to be in God’s will. Besides if you do not enjoy what you do, no matter how much you are paid for it, it’ll not be worth it, you won’t feel fulfilled.
When given the opportunity to be the President of Ghana, what are some of the policies you will change and policies you will implement to empower the Vulnerable in the society?
Answer: Don’t worry about that, I’ll will not become the President of Ghana.
Where do you see yourself and company in the next five years?
Answer: Wherever God sees us but hopefully with our own theatre.
What are some of the advice you got from some people especially parents that inspired you growing up which you would like to share with the youth?
Answer: The advice I received, I discovered are totally irrelevant and inadequate for our times but the example of their lives led me to God and to faith in God.
What have you done in your own way to empower the youth in your locality?
Answer: Apart from my General Manager, who is also in his sixties, everyone I work with is a youth. I bore them with stories of my journey and experiences at every opportunity and I know they hate it but I also know they are learning more than they think they are.
In your opinion, hard work and the favour of God, which of them do you believe in – as related to making someone successful in life?
Answer: You cannot believe in the God who works and not work hard yourself. So I pray as if everything depends on prayer and work as if everything depends on work. They go hand in hand.
Congratulations on your historic achievement! Happy Birthday Uncle Ebo, we wish you more years of greatness! Thank you for your time.
The package sponsored by Rayaw by Asante. You can contact Rayaw by Asante on 0243433632/0202856399 for nice African Wear and all your outfit.