Tesfaye Gessesse celebrates his 80th birthday


It’s a very big birthday for Ato Tesfaye Gessesse.
The well-known figure, poet, dramatist, literary critic, novelist, stage director, lecturer turns 80 on Tuesday.
The assistant professor has celebrated his 80th birthday with family members and friends at a private ceremony in Kategna restaurant, Yordanos Hotel in Addis Ababa on Sunday. Another big public celebration is planned at the Addis Ababa University for next Tuesday.
“I am really surprised that I made it to this age,” Tesfaye said. “At some point in my life, I thought fifty would be good. When I turned fifty, I said okay may be some five more years. The furthest I could realistically think out to is about five years… maybe. I didn’t know how I did it. I just thought ‘Oh, this is good! I’ll be able to just keep working,” the highly visible public figure since the 1960s said.
Tesfaye graduated from the University of Addis Ababa the Law Faculty in 1958 and he performed as an amateur actor in Addis Ababa before studying drama in the USA, North Western University. Returning home in 1961, he worked as a director at the Haile Selassie I Theatre in Addis Ababa. He was play director there from 1961 to 1963. Tesfaye built his reputation more as a director than a playwright. However, he did write some plays in the sixties, and his most famous early piece, Yeshi, brought to the fore the problem of prostitution. His “Father and Sons” was also staged at the H.S.I Theatre. Tesfaye later moved to Haile Selassie I University and helped to establish the Creative Arts Centre and was its director for four years. In 1974-1984 he was the director of Ethiopian National Theatre. In 1975, he had a well-received play, staged under the title of Tahadisso (Renaissance). He established a school and produced some talented actors such as Wogayehu Negatu, Debebe Eshetu, and Alem-Tseahy Wodajo. Tesfaye is also proficient in acting and directing. He has directed the premiere of plays by noted Ethiopian playwrights including Tsegaye Gebre Medhin and Mengistu Lemma. He was the first Ethiopian hamlet.
The birthday celebration event was attended by Tesfaye Gessesse’s wife Woizero Menbere and children Gessesse and Meseletch. Meseletch, who lives in Washington DC, flew for the event and surprised her father.
The big birthday cake was proposed by Solomon Gizaw, who was also a master of the ceremony, an old friend of Tesfaye who started playing at the National Theatre as a child. Solomon described Tesfaye as a force of nature. “I was one of the few lucky enough to know him as a teacher and colleague — the smartest, harshest and most inspiring mentor of my life,” he said.
Guests at the event paid tribute to his artistic legacy. The veteran actor Tekle Desta, who is now based in the United States, said: “Tesfaye is a father figure who instilled in us the work ethics and professionalism. Tekle gave a credit to his warmth and compassion that he channelled such confident expertise into lifting up the next generation of taste makers. dsc01400
(Tekle Desta)
Another senior stage actress, Alganesh Tariku said “Tesfaye is a generous, kind and considerate superior”.

Arefayné Fantahun
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2 Discussion to this post

  1. Happy birthday gashe Tesfaye!!! Wish you many more happy years ahead. another senior I had a chance to be in his class room for world theatre history. Thank you for sharing from your experience not only the text books.

  2. Alem says:

    I do see why he could not have made it to his fiftieth. But I am wondering why he would not say Kibr Le Egziabher yHun. Any way, happy 80th birthday and more blessings on you.

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