JPR has lived an active and distinguished life in theatre where he has excelled as an actor, director and writer. His creative writing goes as far back to 1975 when in high school he wrote his first play, titled Me, Myself and I, which won awards at the schools drama festival and was later screened for Voice of Kenya (VOK) Television (1978) under the direction of the legendary Mambo Hazary.
In May, 1984, JPR was declared the winner of the first Kenyan Radio Play Writing Competition organized by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) Cologne and the Goethe Institut, Nairobi, with his play Why? In the Name of God. He was later awarded a three-month cultural scholarship to West Germany by the Goethe Institut. The play was subsequently translated into German and broadcast by the DLF Radio in 1986. In July 1988, the Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK) translated the play into Norwegian and broadcast it over their network.
In June 1985, he was one of the 19 finalists in the Deutsche Welle Africa-Wide Radio Play Competition with the play The Mad King-Beggar of the Bus Park. The play was produced by the WDR in 1986, and then later in 1988, as an international joint venture between Deutsche Welle and Radio Zimbabwe. It has been re-broadcasted by WDR this summer (1999) in Europe. JPR’s pioneering play that raised awareness on HIV/AIDS was scripted while a student in New Zealand. The play, Beer… was broadcast by the African Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on 20th December, 1987, and by the WDR, in 1988 and produced by the Nairobi based Miujiza Players in1994 under the direction of James Falkland.
In 1993 he authored two plays, Kachinja and No 15, which were later produced by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) in December 1994 and by the Miujiza Players in 1995. Other dramatic works include The Passion (1977), Thim (1978), The Clash (1979), Faces of the Kiwi (1987), The Border Post (1988), Who is in Control here? (1989).
In 1995 he wrote four episodes of a serial, named Towers of Babel: The Times and Tribulations of Naliaka, the Housemaid. The first episode of the serial was declared third overall in the 1997 BBC African Playwriting Competition and was first broadcast on 13th March 1997. The Gearbox Synchronizer was written in January and February, 1997 and was declared the runner up in the 1998 BBC African Performance competition and broadcast in March, 1998. The Gearbox Synchronizer was later translated into German and broadcasted by WDR in late 1998. Towards the end of 1997 JPR scripted an emotional drama that discusses the issue of ethnic or tribal clashes in Africa titled The Night-Long Conversion of Shehu Abdin. The play was translated into Swedish and broadcast by Swedish (Sveriges) Radio in 1998.
Following the tragic bomb blast that rocked Nairobi on August 7, 1998, JPR and a few of his colleagues developed a memorial drama titled Hopes Aflame. The satirical comedy Falling into Place premiered in Nairobi on 9th December, 1999 in a major production performed in conjunction with Arts Ablaze. The play won the Most Outstanding Creative Award in the Mbalamwezi Theatre Awards, 2000. His play Slow down my teacher explores the predatory relationship between a male teacher and his female student premiered at the French Cultural Centre, Nairobi on 12th September, 2001. Thereafter, a political satire, Unearthing the Worm was scripted during the Kenyan election fever of 2002 and was first performed by the Phoenix Players in June-July of the same year.
Phoenix was also involved in the production of When it Rains….that premiered in Nairobi in September, 2010 under the direction of George Mungai.
JPR’s latest theatre piece is You Gave me the Urge… (Why then deny me the performance) that premiered in October, 2015 at the Allaince Francais Nairobi under the direction of Odingo Hawi with Steenie Njoroge in the leading role.
As a result of the political crisis that Kenya is undergoing since the contested election of 27th December, 2007, JPR has been using his vast contacts with stage performers worldwide, to collaboratively work to develop an analytical multi-media script under the working title Master, Speak! O Speak to me!
In 2013, JPR led in an initiative to pay tribute to his foremost mentors, the well-known composer and dramatist, the late Dr. Arthur Kemoli and Prof. Francis Imbuga. Through the initiative, artistes planned a national staging performance of Joe de Graft’s epic drama `Muntu’.
JPR has also been keen in developing supportive institutional structures to performing arts. Some of these are the Eldoret Theatre Group (1977) and the MTC Folk and Culture Club (1977-1979). While in India he formed the African Theatre Group (ATG), Shades and Sudds. In 1991 he was instrumental in putting together ProPerArt Trust/Creations. Those who wish to know more about ProPerArt Creations can visit the following link: www.properartcreations.co.ke
For his national contribution to the development of theatre in Kenya, he was awarded the prestigious Head of State Commendation (HSC) in December 2013.
The following are some of JPR’s publications in area of theatre:
(a) General literature (Published)
1991: The Mad King-Beggar of the Bus-Park. In: African Radio Plays ISBN 3-7890-2240-3. Pages 266-295.
1991: Beer. In: African Radio Plays ISBN 3-7890-2240-3. Pages 323-351
2001: Slow Down My Teacher. Acacia Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966 917 22 5
2010: When it Rains…. Acacia Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966 917 68 3
1992: The Miracle that Miujiza was in Souvenir Programme booklet, `Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’
1999: Tribute to a Fallen Hero: Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere 1922 – 1999. In Souvenir Programme for the 1999 production of ‘Falling into Place’
2013: The Dead Man and the Medals. The EastAfrican May 24, 2013 http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/magazine/Short-Story–The-dead-man-and-the-medals-/434746-1861620-17e24hz/index.html
(b) General literature (un-published stage plays)
- Me, Myself and I (1976)
- Passion (1977),
- Thim (1978)
- Why? In the Name of God (1984)
- Kachinja (1993)
- No 15 (1993)
- Faces of the Kiwi (1987)
- The Border Post (1988)
- Who is in Control here? (1989).
- Towers of Babel: The Times and Tribulations of Naliaka, the Housemaid (1995)
- The Gearbox Synchronizer (1997)
- The Night-Long Conversion of Shehu Abdin (1997)
- Hopes Aflame (1998)
- Falling into Place (1999)
- Slow down my teacher (2001)
- Unearthing the Worm (2002)
- Master, Speak! O Speak to me! (in development since 2008)
- You Gave me the Urge… (Why then deny me the performance?) (2014)
JPR Ochieng’-Odero graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in 1982 from the University of Poona, and was awarded the Indian National Merit Scholarship for Science in April 1982. In 1984 he was awarded an Africa-Wide Postgraduate Research Fellowship that enabled him to undertake postgraduate research at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), New Zealand leading to his graduation with a PhD in Zoology (specializing in Entomology) from the University of Auckland in 1989.
He currently (since 2015) the Team Leader of the East Africa Research Fund ( EARF ) which is a funding facility managed by PwC on behalf of DFID East Africa Research Hub (EARH).
Between 2008 – 2015 he was Deputy Director & Head of Scientific Programmes of the Consortium for National Health Research (CNHR), which is a Kenyan-based health research grantmaking organization funded by Wellcome Trust and DFID.
Previously (1984-2007) he worked as a Senior Research Scientist and Head of the capacity strengthening programme of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)
He was appointed (2013-2016) as a Commissioner with the Commission of University Education (CUE) of Kenya (www.cue.or.ke).
He was appointed (2015) member of the Board of Trustees of the National Research Fund (NRF (www.researchfund.co.ke).
Has published over four-dozen articles.
He was awarded a Head of State Commendation (HSC, Kenya) in December 2013.