By Hussein Kiganda
Renowned lighting expert Leonard Okware, who dedicated 38 years of his life to Uganda’s prestigious cultural centre, the National Theatre, bid his final farewell on September 8, 2023, with a spectacular show titled Blood Rivals.
In an interview with New Vision, he expressed his deep affection for the National Theatre, a place he fondly refers to as his home. He reminisced about the joy it brought to him, his colleagues, and his daily work, emphasising that the memories of this place would forever remain etched in his mind.
“I will be missing the fun that the theatre gave me, not forgetting the people I have worked with for a long time. I will never forget this place because it’s home to me,” Okware said.
His journey at the National Theatre began in 1984 when he encountered aging lighting systems dating back to the 1960s and 70s. However, these were eventually replaced by advanced lighting technology donated by the Japanese government, which served until 2018 when a digital lighting system was implemented.
Okware expressed his satisfaction that Uganda now utilises intelligent lighting systems, enhancing traditional lights (known as hot lights).
Presently, the auditorium boasts a combination of locally sourced traditional lighting fixtures and digital stage lights, which must be imported.
In Okware’s perspective, an ideal theatre should be equipped with comprehensive lighting systems, as exemplified by the National Theatre, providing impeccable visibility and the capability to set various moods through a range of lighting equipment to suit diverse atmospheres.
He shared that his most formidable challenges stemmed from the frequent burnouts of hot bulbs in traditional lights, which often disrupted productions. He also revealed his frustration when productions lacked adequate rehearsals, scripts were not provided in a timely manner for him to exercise his creativity, or when productions exceeded their allocated time.
“My challenge has always been these hot bulbs that blow often because they burn a lot and end up blowing and breaking,” Okware said
He reflected on his most cherished moments, recalling those instances when all the lighting elements were in impeccable condition, allowing him to execute a flawless performance as envisioned by the show’s producer. This satisfaction spanned from the meticulous rehearsals to the actual production itself.
When questioned about whether he had adequately trained his successors to step into his shoes, Okware disclosed that he had invested his efforts in mentoring numerous individuals, equipping them with the skills to handle lighting with finesse.
“I have trained several Ugandans, particularly through internship programmes initiated by the department of performing arts at various universities. For this specific role, I have personally mentored several of my colleagues, and I am confident they will deliver exceptional results,” he affirmed.
Reflecting on his accumulated wisdom over the years, Okware conveyed his proficiency in scriptwriting and interpreting, emphasising his knack for designing lighting schemes tailored to specific productions.
Furthermore, he stressed the importance of dedication and attentiveness to one’s passion, asserting that these qualities are the catalysts for success.
In his guidance to aspiring lighting technicians, Okware underscored the paramount significance of preparation in any production. He advised thorough script comprehension and meticulous positioning of lights to achieve the desired visual effects for each production.
However, Okware issued a stern warning against allowing visitors into the production booth, as such distractions could compromise a technician’s focus on the production, considering that a lighting technician must remain immersed in the production’s every moment.
As he gracefully embarks on his retirement journey, he distinguishes himself from those who might approach this life phase unprepared. He emphasised that he has diligently readied himself for this transition over the span of many years.
Okware’s illustrious career at the National Theatre was a testament to his unwavering dedication to the art of lighting, leaving a lasting legacy that illuminated the stage for decades.