Colombo Theatre Festival for Young Adults 2010

Raising stage acting to potential heights

Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Foundation (LCYTF) will present Colombo Theatre Festival for Young Adults 2010 for the fifth time under the theme of Theatre for Education and Reconciliation.
The LCYTF, or better known as Play-House-Kotte, which was established as a voluntary organisation (as Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Organisation) in 1981 by Somalatha Subasinghe, the veteran playwright and theatre director, with a view to promote in particular children’s and youth theatre and mainstream theatre in Sri Lanka, was made a foundation under the Act No. 3 of 2007.

Over the years LCYTF has produced a repertoire of internationally acclaimed mainly musical theatre for children and youth and award winning mainstream theatre productions. Today, LCYTF is the leading producer of theatre for children and youth, and one of the major training and skill development centres for actors and other creative professionals in Sri Lanka. With its theatre productions over the years, LCYTF has also been able to set new standards for the Sri Lankan theatre.

Festival organisers are presenting three stage plays for this year’s festival. They are Vikurthi (Distortion) by Somalatha Subasinghe, Gladiator Premaya (Gladiator Love) by Namal Jayasinghe and Prasanna Mahagamage and Sanda Langa Maranaya (Blood Wedding) by Kaushalya Fernando. Sanda Langa Maranaya was adjudged the Best Play of the year at the National Drama Festival 2005.
Vikurthi has been one of the most popular stage plays produced in early 1980s and Gladiator Premaya is the latest theatrical endeavour by the Play-House –Kotte. It was acclaimed by theatre critiques. All plays are with deep-insights into the socio-cultural issues faced particularly by the youth.

Vikurthi (Distortion) is a play by Somalatha Subasinghe, a satirical exposure of a hapless generation of youth whose lives were dominated by incessant struggle between the parents’ aspirations and the youth’s abilities and preferences. In the 1980s, at the time the drama was conceived, the wide spread social tendency was that the aspiring parents were trying to achieve the missed opportunities of their own lives through their children. Consequently, the children were forced to study for competitive government examinations such as GCE (O/L) and GCE (A/L), specifically in the Science Stream disregarding their aptitudes and available resources at respective schools and the universities. The play discusses in depth how this anti-social process denied youth of their own life, which in turn deeply affects them in many ways. The production is a semi-musical which is a familiar theatrical experience to the local audiences.

The professional theatre group of the Play-House-Kotte has performed Vikurhti in English in major cities in India and Australia in 2000. The play has been well received by foreign audiences.
Vikurthi cast includes Kaushalya Fernando, Namal Jayasinghe, Prasannajith Abeysuriya, Geetha Alahakoon, Mayura Kanchana and a number of newcomers to the national theatre groomed at Play-House-Kotte.
The play is written and directed by Somalatha Subasinghe. M.R. Chulasinghe composed the music. Choreography is by Somalatha Subasinghe and Chandana Aluthge. Stage lighting is by Chandana Aluthge and make-up by Priyantha Disanayake.
Gladiator Premaya (Gladiator Love) is created by the youth theatre artistes who have successfully completed the Diploma Programme in Drama and Theatre conducted by Kaushalya Fernando in 2009. The Diploma programme entails all round training such as acting, script writing and analysis, directing, movement and vocal training.

Development of the script was done under the supervision of Namal Jayasinghe. Namal was the chief resource person of the script writing and analysis section of the diploma programme. Gladiator Premaya is based on a certain Sri Lankan contemporary social issues. They are dramatised on stage to bring forth the youth point of view of the issues. The play is co-directed by Prasanna Mahagamage and Namal Jayasinghe. Prasanna works with Kaushalya on acting, directing and movements sections of the diploma programme.

Gladiator Premaya cast includes Wishvajith Gunasekera, Sampath Chaminda Jayaweera, Priyantha Siri Kumara, Kalana Gunasekera, Nadishani Weliwita, Harsha Thennekoon and many others. Production Manager is Thilina Perera. Make-up is by Priyantha Disanayake. The play is co-directed by Prasanna Mahagamage and Namal Jayasinghe. Kaushalya Fernando and Chandana Aluthge are executive producers of the play. Sanda Langa Maranaya (Blood Wedding), is the Sinhala version of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. The story is a triangle of passionate love among a bridegroom, a married man, and a young bride. The play basically is a tragedy of missed love, focusing certain universal themes such as extremism, intolerance, and inflexibility in society which makes it relevant for all times.

The production is a semi-musical-surrealistic-type which is a familiar theatrical experience to the local audiences. The choreographed movements, music and rhythm, and vivid lighting and colours in addition to very intense acting on stage impart an entertaining yet intense theatre encounter.
Sanda Langa Maranaya was adjudged the best play of the year at National Drama Festival in 2005. It won eight awards in total at the festival for different categories.
The cast includes Kaushalya Fernando, Sampatha Chaminda Jayaweera, Lucian Bulathsinghala, Sulochana Weerasinghe and a number of others.
Nadeeka Guruge composed music for the play. Choreography and stage lighting are by Chandana Aluthge. Stage sets and properties are by Namal Jayasinghe while make-up is by Priyantha Disanayake. Stage management is by Aruna Jayasena.



The collecting of defensive groups to fight the insecurity of the dark ages of the west

Part V

It was during the Dark Ages that the search for and grouping together the very idea of security became the greatest of needs. It was a time when the whole pattern of society was fired by this universal need for protection against the many invaders and enemies. What arose were the Forts where medieval cities became collections of people living behind strong walls. Even the churches, country manors and workmen’s guilds embarked on this collector-solution. There was no basis on which anyone could tell of being an individual. That was risky for to claim to be so could have the collective group turn on him!

We saw this with the coming of the Portuguese, Dutch and even the British and we certainly saw this collectivism among the Arabs and Indian Muslims then, and see it to this day. Religion too, which at one time was more than being a mere identity with the state, continues to be insistently identical to the state; and even if this was very much in the ways of the theocracies, has now advanced, to assume both political and social dominance. As it happens today, this gives the ruling theme for life.
What then do we have? Have the churches become the collectors? This cannot be denied. In the old days - and we see so much of it in the religious texts -¬ the churches became pre-eminent in the collection of precious things, books, art, relics and carvings.

This had once been the case in ancient Greece for it was accepted that to store all the wealth of a city in a temple was to keep such treasures in sanctuary from any violence. As such, the early houses and temples began to function as schools, libraries and even museums. And has this been for such and such a period only? Oh no - for we can still see it in our cathedrals and convents. It seems that art and literature of any wary period was largely for the benefit of the religious institutions.
Allover Christianised Europe the monks and those of the monastic orders began to take the place of what was the prime duty of the priests and scribes who had been successful in keeping the written word from being lost in the political disorder of their times.

As we know, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century - at a time when most of the public libraries had been held within the pagan temples. When these temples were closed or destroyed in AD 392, the libraries were also destroyed. After all, the newly baptised and anointed Christians were told that the old classic literature was hostile to their faith. To the new Christians it was made obvious that the enlightened doctrines of the ancient world were contained in books and scrolls - something that Christianity would not tolerate!

So we may have come a long way since those atrocious days, but the old Europe still seemed to be served or shackled by other forms of collectivity. To put it plainly, the churches and monasteries also became the storage pits of travellers, pilgrims and the crusaders who would bring back accumulations of the art objects, relics and even natural curiosities, and were not very keen on saying from where they may have been stripped. They may have wrested these from any place they found with the surges and sieges of the Crusaders and the Knights of the Red Cross. It is on record that both travellers and Crusaders brought to the monasteries many “association” pieces. What is among the lists is a rock-crystal goblet that had been stolen from King Solomon’s Temple; a gold and jewelled cup that had belonged to the King himself, and a cameo that bore the likeness of the Queen of Sheba.

As for the pilgrims who headed for Rome, their Holy City, they would copy old Christian inscriptions, knowing that such would always be welcome in the abbeys back home. But there were others who took to natural curiosities often offered to them by conmen for up-and-up prices. They sold what they called “thunderstones,” giant bones and teeth which they swore had come from days too long past and an unbelievably long time ago when “griffin eggs”, ostrich eggs and tortoise shells lay scattered in soft mud or sands.
These were the “marvels” that the old churches and monasteries also possessed and, to regularise matters, began to add a Christian relic-meaning to each fraudulent oddity. “Thunderstones” had been found among the bones of saints. And each griffin egg was the miraculous survival of the teaching of the parables by the Son of God.
In a 1960 script by a Jesuit Priest in Bombay, I found this reference to a variety of objects held in certain old monasteries:

“Such a variety. Some were hung up so that people may come, see, and let them affect their minds. Even princes and ecclesiastics had collections of these “relics of the saints” which they carried about in reliquaries or chests or a cabinet.”
Things became ruthless. The relic trade became so extensive that monasteries tried to outdo each other, confident that the authenticity of the objects was very rarely questioned. What resulted? Oh, many totally un-Christian activities. There were violent monastic quarrels as well as thievery and even murder! It made no difference that what was on offer was as fantastic as a science-fiction manual. In the ninth century a monastery offered “hair from the beard of Noah.” Accusations spread. The hair had been clipped from the beard of an old monk in the monastery! But even the sale of duplicated relics made little difference. It was glibly explained to buyers that the saint possessed the mystical facility to be in two places at the same time. When he had died while in discourse with a Stoic Sect, his second self, who was in Germany to stall the dethronement of Latin, had to die and return to God as well!

Come to think of it, even the ancient Greeks looked on the bronze age weapons as prime sales objects. They would claim that the weapons belonged to the Homeric Heroes. In Joppa, they exhibited the “Bones of a Monster” to which Andromeda had been sacrificed. These bones were even taken for exhibition in Rome, and the Romans, flocking to see such a marvel, shouted “Miraculal”
Oh yes, the monasteries were plundering the silly collectors who could never doubt the holy churchmen. I told you of King Solomon’s cup and the cameo of the Queen of Sheba They were offered at an impossible price at the Abbey of Saint Denis in England, and the monks there, spurred by their Abbot, produced two other “trophies” - the “actual foot” of King Solomon and the “right arm” of the Queen of Sheba! (Perhaps the couple were wrestling!)

We are also told of the “thumb” of Saint Bartholomew and the “shift of the Virgin... (how and why she divested herself of it is not told)... and plenty of quite ordinary stuff like phials of sand and water brought from Jerusalem and the Holy City of Rome.
Let me tell you of Henry, Bishop of Winchester who had some 12th century problems with the Pope. He went to Rome, hoping to sort out things to his advantage. While in Rome he was greatly attracted by quantities of ancient sculpture and when buying as much as he could, a man approached him and asked if the Bishop was mad to buy such pagan stuff. Henry stood his ground.

“I am buying these statues to take them away to England. In doing so I feel I will be protecting your people who are so money-loving and weak enough to keep buying such ungodly works for themselves. I feel that you Romans are beginning to worship these pagan idols, and this worries me much.”
Let’s leave all this for a while, leave our Europeans to keep seeking through the Age of Darkness. There is another world of collectors far beyond western knowledge who have made a fine art of it all. Let me tell of them next week.


Czech film at ICES

International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) is scheduled to screen The Country Teacher, a film by Bohdan Slama a veteran film-maker of the Czech Republic.
The storyline is as follows: A talented young teacher Petr (Pavel Liska) leaves his prestigious teaching job in Prague to teach in a small rural school and locals are somewhat suspicious of his motives, but never-the-less welcome him into local activities. Here he makes the acquaintance with a single mother Marie (Zuzana Bydzovska) and her troubled 17-year-old son Lada (Ladlslav Sedivy) The teacher has no romantic interest in the woman but they quickly form a strong friendship, each recognising the other’s uncertainties, hopes and longing for love.

When the teacher’s ex-boyfriend comes to visit from the city, he quickly realises that nobody in the village knows that the teacher is gay and harbours a secret affection for the teenage boy. His jealous actions set in motion a series of events that will test the inner strength and compassion of the teacher, the woman and her son to a breaking point.

The cast is first rate and capably convey the spectrum of emotions that surround this little tale of discovery.
How director Bohdan Slama is able to keep his story aligned in transferring between Prague and the little country province demonstrates sensitivity to human interaction that is equal to the finest writers and directors.
A beautiful Czech film. Official Selection: 2008 Venice Int’l Film Festival and Toronto Int’l Film Festival. (117 minutes)
It will be screened at ICES auditorium tomorrow , November 29, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the ICES Auditorium, 2, Kynsey Terrace, Colombo 8


Sunanda wins first place at Dahadiya Sittama

Sunanda Kodagoda of People’s Bank Western Zone II has repeated his victory and received the first place in the ‘Photography Category’ of the islandwide Literacy Competition for State and Private Sector Workers (Employees), conducted by the Literary Sub-committee of the National Trade Union Centre.
Previously, in 2009 Kodagoda won the first place for his photograph titled Jeewithe Ridhmaya (the Rhythm of Life).
This year he received the top honour of first place consecutively for his photograph titled Mehewara (Service) and received a certificate of merit for Malin Malata.
National Trade Union Centre Chairman K. D. Lal Kantha graced the occasion at the Elphinston Theatre in Maradana to give away the trophies and certificates to the winners at the “Wadakarana Janatha Kala Ulela 2010.”
Claiming many awards in photography Sunanda Kodagoda has accomplished many qualifications in this field, receiving Diploma Certificates at the National Photographical Art Society, the Hegoda Seya Shilpha Nakathanaya and the Photo Technica Photography School. He is also a LISIP Memebrs of the Sri Lanka Photographers Institute.


Wendy Holsinger on ‘Celeb Chat’

Wendy Holsinger is the famous daughter of the legendary Wendy Whatmore and currently presides over the destiny of the ‘Wendy Whatmore Academy of Speech and Drama’.
Listen to her talk about her famous mother, the Academy and its thousands of students, her family, her pets, her hobbies and more in a wide ranging and heart-to-heart chat with Kumar de Silva at 9.30 pm tomorrow November 29 on Prime TV’s “Celeb Chat’.