Theatre in Reconciliation

A training session by Dharmajith Punarjeewa. Pix: Mahinda Vithanachchi
A training session by Dharmajith Punarjeewa. Pix: Mahinda Vithanachchi

March 27, the day dramatists all around the world celebrate National Theatre Day, Sri Lanka is gearing up, with drama productions coupled with the theme of reconciliation.

Playwright and actor Dharmajith Punarjeewa, has been in on the project, calling applications from young enthusiasts from all over the world, training them. “We had around 300 applicants, and we chose 54 of them for the program.” The training program started in October last year.

Most of the young adults in the program are from rural areas who have missed the opportunity for higher education at local universities by a mark or two, and are left with very few options to go ahead. As always, theatre, dancing and music are being used to quench their thirst to engage in a productive activity, helping them to get over their disappointments, and in the long run, support reconciliation.

Punarjeewa said, in 2016, 39 suicides had been reported, by jumping before running trains, and 31 of them were young men and women, the reason being love affairs.

This spoke of a social problem. “Most of them come to Colombo from rural areas, for higher education or for employment, and get involved in romantic relationships, and when they break up, they lack the emotional strength to face life.”

With this concept, the drama crew has produced a 45 minute long ballet Why we kill ourselves, which will be the first production staged on the 27th.

“It is a fusion of Sinhala and Tamil folk songs, dancing and music.” The idea of fusion was decided upon due to the dispute that occurred at the Jaffna University when a group of students performed Kandyan dancing. “We want to send a message that coexistence begins with art.”

The second production lined up for the event is a singing and drama performance based on traditional noorthi and nadagam songs.

Also, a Tamil play has been produced based on certain parts of Ramayana in contemporary style.

“We intend to take these productions, especially, the ballet, all around the country,” Punarjeewa added.

The training programs were initially centred at ‘Apey Gama’ in Battaramulla, under the management of Ajitha de Costa, though later they moved out from the premises due to financial reasons. However, the event will be held on March 27, at 6.30 pm at the ‘Apey Gama’ Battaramulla.

Punarjeewa sas he is satisfied with the effort the young dramatists in the program put in to make it a success. “For six months we’ve been training daily.

The participants are provided with food and an allowance, as well as hostel facilities, so in fact it is like a semi-professional training, but most of all, I think they get the right message from it. In a world where most of the people seek fame before quality, we have taught them to look for quality before fame,” he explained. IK 

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