If you asked a room full of African theatre people to choose six plays to publish you would have, not consensus, or even amicable argument, but trouble. So we didn't ask: we decided. We did have a few guiding principles. Given that African Theatre only recently – in 2014 – published a volume on the work of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka we would not include these most famous of names. However we would, given that these are the regions of our best knowledge, focus on West and East Africa. We would only include plays we really liked, but we would try to offer a wide variety of authorship, form and subject matter; and we would try to bring to wider notice some works, notably plays not written in English, that we thought would be of interest to an international audience.
There are not many anthologies of African plays in circulation. We edited one many years ago (Methuen, 1999), Biodun Jeyifo edited another in 2002 (Norton), and Ubu Repertory Theatre Publications brought out two volumes of francophone plays in 1987 and 1991; and that's it for collections that are not the work of one playwright or drawing on work from just one country. We thought the world might like another place to access some of the best of African theatre in one volume.
We also thought that people coming new to the work might appreciate a little help in understanding and contextualizing the plays they were encountering. So we asked a range of theatre scholars, many leading voices in the field along with a few newcomers to keep things fresh, to write us accompanying essays for each play. We asked them to tell us something about the playwright, her or his times, work and thought, and then to discuss, in whatever terms they chose, the play in question. The results, several by people who have known the playwrights, or else by scholars deeply knowledgeable on their chosen playwright, are hugely informative and thought provoking.
It is sadly true that the number of women playwrights in Africa, though significantly growing, is still limited. African playwriting remains dominated by men.