The play Ngaahika Ndeenda, translated later into English as I Will Marry When I Want, was first performed in Kenya in 1977 at the Kamiriithu Community Education and Cultural Centre – an open-air theater at Kamiriithu, in Limuru, Kenya. The project sought to create an indigenous Kenyan theater, which would liberate the theatrical process from what he held to be “the general bourgeois education system”, by encouraging spontaneity and audience participation in the performances. If traditional theatrical form was based on rehearsal “more or less in secrecy”, in order to present an awing, perfected, daunting final form to an audience, Ngũgĩ aimed to present a form of theater which would abstain from “mystifying knowledge and hence reality”. By concealing the struggles of the actors to achieve their sought-after form as embodiments of their characters, traditional theater, according to Ngũgĩ, actually causes people in the audience to “feel their inadequacies, their weaknesses and their incapacities in the face of reality; and their inability to do anything about the conditions governing their lives.”

Ngũgĩ’s project sought to “demystify” the theatrical process, and to avoid the “process of alienation [which] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers” which, according to Ngũgĩ, encourages passivity in the viewer. Although Ngaahika Ndeenda was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening. Ngũgĩ was subsequently imprisoned from 31 December 1977 to 12 December 1978.