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
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.
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
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
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
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