360Nobs’ Chinedu Obayi gets up close & Personal with the Brain behind stage play creations such as GREY AREA, SAME PAGE AND JOURNEY OF AN AFRICAN WOMAN.
Mr Michael Asuelime is a Nigerian, a Gentleman from Edo State. Michael attended Lagos Baptist Academy for his secondary education and is a graduate of Bio Chemistry from the prestigious University of Lagos.
He is a down to earth individual who is aggressively passionate about what he does and has special love for his country Nigeria. He has cut his teeth in the entertainment industry, having been part of the it for over 2 decades with many years spent at various aspect of the industry, he is a prolific playwright, actor, producer and a gifted director, he has written and directed many mind blowing plays to his credit.
He loves to help and can go the extra mile to put smile on the face of the needy. He loves to encourage, crack jokes with people around him but never jokes with his work. The Biochemistry graduate is also a public speaker with strong passion for the youth in readiness to take the baton of leadership.
He is a married man who loves his wife and 3 boys (Michael Jnr 9, Mikkel is 1 year and half old,and Mitchell whom is just some days old) and believes the shortest distance between two poles is a straight line, no matter how hard or harsh the issue is, the truth will always be the only appreciated fact!
360Nobs: CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I am a story teller, my favorite is to re-tell the already” told- story” (true life event) in a way that many can find themselves in the characters, so as to learn one or two possible life lessons. I am a playwright, a director, a producer and also a public speaker with special focus on the youths as they are clearly the holders of our “next experience”.
360Nobs: WHY THEATRE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I could have been many other things but I fell in love with “stage” way back when I was about 9 years old and the love for the stage became a dream at the time when many were wishing to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and many believed I was always going to end up in one of those professions due to the fact that I was rated the best science student back in school .When I got into the university, it became my passion as I would then write, direct and produce several stage plays. I never missed productions like the Sikulu and Epitombi from South Africa, and several others by Nigerian playwrights. As soon as I was done with my first degree, I felt like a bird that was let loose to fly without limitations. I knew it was time to follow my passion and made it my vision. Theatre for me is “where the truth is told”.
360Nobs: FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?
I have been involved with theatre since my primary school days all through to my university days but took it as my profession since 1999, when I joined a group called Rhythm of the Black Man and became the Vice President of the group and also one of the lead actors alongside Nollywood star OC Ukeje in plays like “Going Back to My Root” and “Dawn of the New Day” and when the group was disbanded, I went on to start BP Vision Limited in 2003, so you can do the maths.
360Nobs: WHAT’S BP VISION ALL ABOUT?
BP Vision is a cutting edge entertainment company set up to redefine the role of entertainment using creative concepts in events and stage solutions as tools for connecting people to their roots for the purpose of nation building. Our vision is to be the number one in content development for entertainment, events and media, in addition to being the primary events engineering solution provider in Nigeria. We have a mission to re-position Africa for leadership by providing unrivalled quality, technically creative solutions thereby raising the standard of entertainment in our society. We have provided event solutions for quite a number of major events in the country through technical service. In past years, we have been in the forefront of making theatre the beautiful pride for all and restore it to its rightful position in the limelight as the place where everything about entertainment started from.
360Nobs: APART FROM BP VISION, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU INVOLVED WITH?
Like many others in Nigeria, one must have several avenues of generating income ,so apart from producing and directing my own works, you will find me directing other people’s plays, music videos, and sometimes I write and sell scripts for movies, BP Vision also provides engineering solutions to events (consulting,video,sound and lighting).
I also run a non-profit organisation call BPV Foundation which was set up to provide hope to the less privileged people in our society through developmental programmes. Some of our past projects are Galaxians Play for Charity; a football event organised to gather the who’s who from the various segments of the entertainment industry (comedy, music, broadcasting,movies) to gather and play a novelty match to raise funds that will support the dreams of 2 talented individuals from SOS Children’s Village. Today the 2 individuals are successful in their pursuit. One is doing well in the entertainment scene in Nigeria and the other person is in the US pursuing her dreams of becoming both a musician and footballer. Another programme of the foundation is Lend a Hand (Hospital Visit) where we visited the General Hospital, Gbagada on January 1st to provide food and other items to the patients with some celebrities on hand to empathize with them. The foundation has been involved in many other programmes like taking kids from orphanage homes to cinema and providing mentorship for them through some notable celebrities and other empowerment programmes like Lend a Hand ‘feed a thousand‘. This was a programme that gathered about 1000 young Nigerians at the National Stadium Surulere to feed their minds, souls and bodies. On hand to feed their minds were celebrities who gave inspirational talks to inspire and motivate them. Medical personnel from various medical establishment and support from Lagos State Government were also on ground to feed their hearts through medical advice and treatment. And of course adequate food was provided to feed their bodies. Today, that gathering has produced some cinematographers who are doing well in the industry.
360Nobs: TELL US ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS WORKS.
I have actually had a number of them like Mystery which was more of 2 man play with dance and a ‘mystery’ woman. Quest in Time is another wonderful play that got the attention of many at the time. Going Back to My Root was a very revealing play and it was taken beyond Lagos to some other parts of the country. Dawn of a New Day, Grey Area,Same Page, Joaw, and many more.
360Nobs: TELL US MORE ABOUT JOURNEY OF AN AFRICAN WOMAN[JOAW].
JOAW was a play written to expose the plight of the African woman living in the African context. It’s a play an average African man or woman will relate with. I wrote it as a result of an experience my late mother had and other cultural issues that are prevailing in our society. She didn’t have a bad experience with my father, though he actually loved her but her experience with the relatives was not too pleasant, which was a fall out of cultural beliefs and preservation. Someone has to tell the story to expose these cultural practices that are not pleasant and sometimes degrading. The beauty of the play is the fact that it’s an all female cast play from the beginning to the end. And it was really successful I would say because the audience got the message and appreciated it even as they laughed and laughed but yet ” it was a deep thought provoking experience” by a male audience.Some have called us to stage the play again and advised that we take it across Nigeria so that many people will be able to get the message we are trying to pass across.
360Nobs: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING EVENT ‘SAME PAGE RELOADED’.
Same Page Reloaded is a play that has been staged before but is coming back by popular demand with a little twist here and there, with the introduction of a new character and 3 more scenes, (it’s a true life story with some fragment of my imaginations). Since the first time it was staged at the Shell Hall, Muson Centre which was filled to capacity, we’ve had outstanding demands for it to be staged again. In response to the yearning of our fans, we are bringing it back, this time with a twist to make it more appealing especially to those who have seen it before . We are also using it to celebrate our 10th year in theatre as a company. Hence we are putting our best with support from all over so that our audience will begin to experience maximum fun from the moment they enter the arena, the serenading at the foyer while waiting to go in to the hall, to the ambience of the set, special lighting and songs. We plan to add value to every penny they pay and much so that they leave feeling so special and of course with a lifelong experience, after all it’s our 10th anniversary.
360Nobs: WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN LIKE?
Well, it’s been encouraging considering the apathy people had towards stage plays. There use to be a time it was seen as the exclusive reserve of the elites in the society. However, our 10th year goal has been achieved (and that’s to see that the love, appreciation and respect for the “stage” is evident in the heart of entertainment lovers in Nigeria) with the help of many other prolific producers. But, it has been a long time coming, a very difficult path to travel especially when you could have been doing other things which could have given you more financial reward within a shorter time frame but for passion, dreams and vision. And now, we can say the response is getting better, people are beginning to appreciate theatre more and it has started to pay off, we can now afford some necessary things of life, pay staff, go on holidays, and afford to dream bigger now. (All of these have been by the support and sponsorship of the appreciating individuals, small and big businesses alike).
360Nobs: OF ALL YOUR WORKS, WHICH YOU CONSIDER THE MOST CHALLENGING?
My most challenging could easily be one of these three if not all, “Quest in time” ( been the very first play I wrote from scratch to finish, casting all fresh faces , no money but faith and hope). Then “Grey area” ( basically two man play and how to ensure that the new lovers of the stage stayed glued to their seats). And of course “Journey of an African Woman” (an all female cast )which I would say was the most challenging. Friends, individuals, relatives, social media ( all male) did not think it was possible – they believed that I pulled the carpet from their feet with the script, but most of them were also able to identify with the balancing of the matters discussed and of course the hilarious way the script presented the very sensitive matters without losing the essence. Everyone that saw the play concurred that the script was an interesting and emotional way to tell the African woman’s story.
360Nobs: OF ALL THE ACTS YOU HAVE WORKED WITH, WHOM DO YOU CONSIDER THE TOUGHEST?
My toughest act will definitely be asking my son Michael Asuelime Jnr ( who is a wonderful kid actor;already done like 4 films which he has played the major character in 2 of them acting alongside international acts,) to play a role that is almost near his own life story. The tough part of it is having to deal with all his questions before and after the play.
360Nobs: WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
Playing, watching and analysing football. Spending some time in the gym and love to joke around sometime. Spending time with my family watching lot and lot of movies with my boys and dancing with my fun loving wife (life is too short).
360Nobs: IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THEATRE, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN DOING?
I only wonder!
Thanks a lot sir and we wish you success in your future endeavour.