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Sunday, 31 March 2013

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Opening pathways to pursue tomorrow's dreams

Amidst a lively exposition of cultural splendour the second Colombo International Theatre Festival (CIFT) announced its arrival to realisation, on the evening of March 27 at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. A bold venture undertaken by the Inter Act Art organisation, the CIFT is the culmination of the passions of several theatre practitioners who have devotedly pursued this dream of opening doors to create a cross cultural dialogue through theatre, both on theatre and what theatre represents in the larger picture of being an art that reflects the society in which it is conceived.

Performances of dance, the musical and the theatrical came alive on the floor of the Empire Ballroom of the Host Hotel of the Festival's inauguration with much vivacity converging to create an evening where the cultural milieus of the participating countries found space for representation.

Sachin Tewari

The chief guest of the evening was Sachin Tewari the Artistic Director of the Campus Theatre, Allahabad, India. In his address Tewari remarked that he was experiencing an 'emotional moment' seeing how the efforts have seen the realisation of the second CIFT. He said that given the challenging circumstances under which the festival has come to fruition it is an inspiration to all who are taking part and that CIFT helps them all 'to fly higher and higher on their artistic journey'. Tewari expressed how he sees theatre as an art that deals essentially with dreams and strives to reach a better world. Stating to the effect that the festival creates ground for cross cultural enrichment beyond boundaries he congratulated the organisers Inter Act Art and ended his speech by calling upon all present to rise to their feet and join him in a standing ovation in salutation to all artists of Sri Lanka.

Prasanna Vithanage

The compere of the evening, veteran actress of the stage and screen Kaushalya Fernando opened the podium to renowned Sri Lankan film-maker Prasanna Vithanage to address the gathering. Vithanage said that whenever he attends an international film festival the most unavoidable question that comes his way is why Sri Lanka doesn't have an international film festival? Sri Lanka he said has over the years made her mark in all the major film festivals of the world and has gained recognition.

He said the usual answer to the unavoidable question includes the following reasons -the war that waged on for thirty years, the lack of funds and infrastructure. And in this light he stated that he salutes the director of CIFT, M. Safeer for what he has achieved through sheer determination as his initiative. It was a great achievement the first time round he said and added that realising it for a second time is an even more praiseworthy accomplishment. The audience then responded with applause to join the speaker in his sentiments.

The veteran film-maker said that still theatre is 'the most collective art in the world', and added 'without risk and sacrifice theatre cannot survive in this world'. Wishing the overseas participants an adventurous and spirited experience in Sri Lanka he concluded his speech to pave way for the house to recognise the presence of the drama directors who will be presenting their productions as part of the festival. The ceremony ended with that and thereafter the house opened for fellowship and hospitality.

The birthday surprise

Theatre is in many ways about expression and communication and how spaces are utilised for this purpose. The most touching highlight of the evening without a doubt was the surprise birthday felicitation that was pulled on the Dean of the Flame School of Performing Arts in India, Prasad Vanasari by his students before they delivered their performance item for the evening.

The lights in the hall went out and the young men and women in their performing outfits bearing lit candles and a birthday cake came forward to greet their guru chorusing 'happy birthday'. The suddenness in the change in the programme's proceedings made the birthday boy feel both honoured and tinged with shyness. It was a heart warming moment that had everyone filling the air with applause.

The festival secretary

After the ceremonies ended, I had the chance to speak to Jayalath S. Gomes the gentleman who handles the secretarial responsibilities of the festival. When I asked him if he too was a theatre professional he immediately said that though he enjoys much the involvement he has with the Inter Act Art which is now four years, his role is as a volunteer. "I got involved with the group when Safeer approached me to translate to Sinhala an English version of a German play titled Beanpole really really wants.

And later I translated several more. Nine plays altogether were translated and the group produced five of them." Said the soft spoken gentleman who said he had been approached by Safeer to handle the overseas correspondence and overall secretarial aspects of the festival.

"CIFT is surely going to be much better this time that last year." Said Gomes confidently in his kind and affable demeanour. "The opening ceremony this year is much grander. And we have much more publicity this time which has been very good. We are on a stronger footing now."

The CIFT surely has gone from strength to strength with more backers entering the project to help meet costs and generate greater awareness and create more enthusiasm to see foreign plays being performed here in the larger scheme of an artistic project to create greater dialogue and cultural sensitivity.

With overseas participation from Nepal, India, Austria, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt CIFT is a pioneer in taking theatre to new strides of intercultural exposure creation for the theatregoers in Sri Lanka.

 

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