|Articles: Six Questions for Constance Ejuma|
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
She’s an award-winning actress and producer whose film credits include Marvel’s “Black Panther,” a film which earned her a Best Stunt Ensemble SAG Award. With credits in theatre, television and commercials, the Cameroonian-born thespian has worked with Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo and was also featured as an African Warrior Queen in Jennifer Lopez's music video for the hit single 'El Anillo'."
Ejuma, who produced and starred in the award-winning "Ben & Ara," just premiered her one woman show titled '"Ghost Town" about the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon,. Directed by Jude Yong, "Ghost Town," is playing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles. Samantha Ofole-Prince caught up with the talented thespian to learn more about the solo show.
1) Can you explain the connotation behind the play's title "Ghost Town" and why you chose it?
Ghost towns originally started as a form of peaceful protest where schools, shops and businesses would all close down and everyone would stay home. I think initially the idea was to disrupt the local economy enough to force the government to take the protests seriously. Now though, ghost towns have taken a darker turn as civilians who fail to observe it risk retaliation from either the military or the separatists. It resonated with me as the best title for this show because there are symbolic as well as literal ghost towns littered across the North West and South West provinces of Cameroon as a result of the "Anglophone Crisis." On the one hand, you have towns that observe regularly scheduled ghost towns. On the other hand, you have villages that are burnt down and deserted as people had to flee or risk getting killed. The eerie vacancy of large spaces that were once teeming with life is disturbing enough but nothing beats the tragedy of the disappearance of a whole community.
2) This is a project you have written, starred in and produced - how challenging is it wearing so many hats and how long did it take to write?
I slowly started working on this in July 2018 and it took about 6 months for me to write it. The great thing about doing a one-person show is that it allows you to exert a lot of control over how the story is told. I had the freedom to execute my vision almost to the letter. I wanted to run a light ship and make the production as minimalistic as possible, which meant the story had to speak for itself - not extravagant sets or lavish costumes. Since this is my first one-woman show, I was determined to give myself as much time as possible to be able to properly balance both the creative and business demands of the project. And doing a show at a fringe festival comes with it's own special set of challenges, but it's been a great learning experience. What has really brought this project to life is working with a great director like Jude Yong who not only has a great deal of insight on the subject matter but is able to get to the heart of each character's need and work with me to make each of them shine. I wouldn't have had the confidence to produce this without that kind of support.
3) “Ghost Town” explores the various points of view surrounding the ‘Anglophone Crisis’ which erupted in Cameroon in 2016, does the show also serve as a historical lesson for those unfamiliar with the country's dark past?
What motivated me to do this project was the fact that there's a lack of awareness about the 'Anglophone Crisis.' So a huge component of the show is the presentation of audio-visual materials which provide the audience with much needed context about how things came to be the way they are today. I wanted to pivot between a macro and a micro view of the subject to balance things out. If you're unfamiliar with Cameroon's history, you'll learn a lot from the show.
4) Having conducted extensive research to produce the play, what did you learn about Cameroon that you weren't initially aware of before?
The biggest surprise was that this isn't the first time there's been a crisis of this nature in Cameroon. A similar conflict erupted in the mid-90s so the fact that it's resurfaced just points to the fact that there are many unresolved issues that still need to be properly addressed.
5) Colonized by the French and the British, Cameroon is still experiencing the consequences of post-colonial reunification, why do you think that is?
The biggest irony about this situation is that on the surface, the conflict appears to be about which ex-colonizer's language, culture and system of governance should dominate - English or French. But the deeper issue is that a faction of the Cameroonian population feels oppressed and marginalized and for close to 60 years their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Things have come to head once again.
6) What do you hope audiences will take away from 'Ghost Town'?
I would like audiences to leave the show having a better understanding of what's happening in Cameroon and in effect broaden their sense of awareness of the various forms of oppression people are experiencing the world over. It's easy to think that the tragedies we hear about in the news are the only ones that are happening in the world and that isn't the case at all.