The annual drama festival presented by the Sunera Foundation to showcase the talents of young disabled participants attached to our performing arts workshops around the island reached its final conclusion. The finale of ‘SAMANALAYAYA 2016’ was held on May 18 at the Lionel Wendt Memorial Theatre.

Leading up to the final performance in Colombo were nine regional drama festivals held during the months of February and March 2016, showcasing the talents of over 1000 disabled participants from about 29 Sunera Foundation performing arts workshops spread across the country. Each workshop performed a play which is conceptualised, scripted and directed by the Sunera Trainers, and rehearsed by the participants for a period of six months.

The regional performances were evaluated by a panel of judges and the best three plays were selected for the finals in Colombo. This year’s best dramas were produced by Dehiwala, Imaduwa and Kuliyapitiya workshop participants who took the stage for the finals and shone in talent and enthusiasm.

Human-elephant conflict
The first play of the evening was titled ‘Akuru Wepuru Hena’ and performed by the participants of the Dehiwala workshop. Dealing with the current Human Elephant conflict faced by villages of Sri Lanka, this story is set in a village in which lives a farmer and his family who are subject to periodic attacks by elephants. The livelihood and lives of the farming community are thus at great risk. The elephants, in turn, are threatened by human encroachment as more jungle areas are cleared for cultivation.

Meanwhile, the younger people of the community have their own difficulties and disruptions of their activities. As the story and the plot develop, the cast presented the message of being united through the challenges which always ends with victory.

Unity and harmony
‘Okkoma Minissu’ performed by the participants of the Imaduwa workshop took the stage second with a clear message on unity and harmony. This story focused on conflicts between and among human beings the world over which inevitably lead to hostility, alienation, destruction and death. The story set in an orphanage situated in a war zone showed that despite superficial differences, all of us share a common humanity, when they bravely housed a wounded soldier and a rebel standing up to recognize and respect this reality.

The third drama of the evening was presented by the participants of the Kuliyapitiya workshop and it was a comedy titled ‘Kema Rahai’. The story was set in a restaurant in a small town. The cooks and waiters are busy taking orders from the customers and preparing food.

Everything seems to go smoothly until some customers begin feeling unwell and stumble out of the restaurant. The laughter from the audience escalated when the inspectors came to check the restaurant and the staff had to get their act together with little time and plenty of rats! Again, a team effort the waiters, cooks and the owner himself, got the restaurant up and running again in good order.

The two lively dance items presented by the Dehiwala, Maharagama, Thirippane, Anuradhapura Palugaswewa and Kekirawa workshops had the audience applauding and cheering!

While raising awareness on the unique work done by Sunera, using the performing arts as a therapeutic tool for the disabled, this drama festival gives workshop participants an opportunity to get on stage and showcase their talent to their communities. This instills self-confidence in them and facilitates the integration of this marginalised group into mainstream society.
(Pics by Aruna Udaya Alwis)


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