11th June 2000

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Who is mad? Who is sane?

In a fresh venture for English theatre here, three theatre companies will combine their multiple talents to bring to the stage a tale of heartfelt human wrath. It is an expose´ that appears at a moment when humanity is undergoing extraordinary change, when there is great hope for the future and yet a Who is mad? Who is sane?stranglehold by the past. 

The Performing Arts Company, StageLight & Magic Inc. and Mind Adventures are currently preparing a performance of the internationally acclaimed play, 'Death and the Maiden' written by Ariel Dorfman.

Set in 1990, Dorfman's 'Death and the Maiden' could be located in any country in the world that has given itself a democratic government after a long period of dictatorship. The plot surrounds Gerardo Escobar, a man whose car breaks down on a road, and is given a ride home by a friendly stranger, Dr. Roberto Miranda. The man's wife, Paulina, believing she recognizes in the stranger the voice of her torturer and rapist, makes him her captive and puts him on trial.

The author's masterful script engenders empathy for the characters and their pain, often communicated through words and actions that are both violent and sexual in tone. The truly startling aspect of this play is that given this situation, it is impossible to deny that seemingly 'normal' human beings would not react as the characters do. It also highlights how delicate the line between madness and sanity really is. 'Death and the Maiden' presents a tremendous challenge, not only to the Who is mad? Who is sane?producers and the players, but also to the audience.

Many issues form the core of this play: the uneasy transition of democracy and the debate surrounding the question of how to recreate a community fractured by divisions and hatred. It also explores the bewildering question of whether justice is possible for those who have suffered the trauma of torture, and how to justly call those perpetrators to account for their actions.

'Death and the Maiden' will be staged from June 29 to July 2 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo. Tracy Holsinger, who previously directed 'Widows' (also written by Ariel Dorfman) 'Virgo Intacta' (Seneka Abeyratne) and 'Slag' (David Mamet), will direct the play. The character of Who is mad? Who is sane?Roberto Miranda is portrayed by Mohamed Adamaly well known for his roles in Performing Arts Company productions such as 'Black Comedy', 'Death Trap', 'Run For Your Wife' and 'Don't Dress for Dinner'. Karen Balthazaar who acted in 'Virgo Intacta' and 'Slag' for Mind Adventures plays Paulina. After performing in productions such as 'Evita', 'The Cherry Orchard' and 'Arms and the Man', Mario Gomez returns to the stage after an absence of six years, to complete the cast of 'Death and the Maiden' as Gerardo Escobar.

The Sunday Times is the newspaper sponsor for the play.

Preserving strokes of greatness

By Alfreda de Silva

George Keyt has made an incomparable contribution to the art and culture of the twentieth century and projected Sri Lanka's image worldwide. 

His work, blending both Asian and European influences, spans many decades of restless and passionate creativity. 

At an informal dinner-meeting of George Keyt's friends and admirers in 1988, the conversation turned to the long-felt need to preserve his work for posterity as a valuable part of this country's heritage. 

There was unanimous support for the idea, which saw the beginnings of the George Keyt Foundation, that day, founded by Cedric de Silva, chairman of its Board of Trustees. 

During the Foundation's, 12 years of existence, a number of its aims and objectives have been achieved. Some of them are the promoting and assisting of Sri Lankan painters, sculptors, musicians and writers; restoring and preserving George Keyt's work in all media; publishing the writings by and about him and reproducing works of art by him to make him more accessible to the public. 

In addition to the many exhibitions of his work there have been several publications. 

Among them are three noteworthy works on Keyt by his close friend for many years, H.A.I. Goonetileke: a Biography of George Keyt; the first book of the Drawings of George Keyt and the Collected Poems of the artist, with a Preface by the author-biographer; an introduction by Ashley Halpe and interview with the artist-poet by Ellen Dissanayake. 

There are also among them Albert Dharmasiri's book on the Gotami Vihare paintings. Dr. Sunil Goonesekera's George Keyt Interpretations, published by the Institute of Fundamental Studies, Prof. Anuradha Seneviratne's text for the artist's Gotami Buddha frescoes and translations of his work into Sinhala and Tamil. Keyt drew his vast fund of inspiration from the heady lushness of the Kandyan villages in which he lived and worked, and the women who enlivened them with their beauty. 

It is interesting that when the Foundation organized a young Contemporaries' Competition, entries came from far-flung villages in the north and the south, the east and the west of Sri Lanka. These brought greatly varied impressions of the country's lifestyle, occupations and culture. 

The majority of these artists were unknown. Some of their work was highly original and of a surprisingly high standard. It was as if they had been waiting to be motivated, to be discovered. 

The selection of the Young Artist of the Year gave further impetus to the rich fund of talent that had been unearthed. 

The George Keyt Foundation extended its activities to assist these artists. The best among them formed the Nava Kala Karuwo, a group of artists who can stand on their own and earn a living from their art. 

The Foundation also participates in the International Artists' Camps that are held annually for about 10 days at a time, usually in a picturesque setting away from Colombo. 

These are sponsored by the Goethe Institute, the Alliance Francaise and the British Council. 

A recent innovation of the Foundation that has helped many local artists, whose work has not been exposed to the public is the Kala Pola the one-day street fair for the sale of their paintings. 

This takes place opposite the National Art Gallery in Green Path. All the monies collected are for the artists themselves. 

According to the Secretary of the George Keyt Foundation, Sita de Silva, at the last such sale the takings had been over a million rupees. 

George Keyt's exuberant and prolific creativity as a painter had overshadowed the fact that he was also a poet, who won recognition both here and abroad. The Foundation's publication of what was available of his poetry is thus a further contribution to the preservation of his work. 

H.A.I. Goonetileke mentions in his Preface to George Keyt - Collected Poems that Keyt's drawing 'Dreaming in the Sun' illustrates the poem of that title. He had requested that it be used for the cover of the book. 

The sensuality of both drawing and poem holds the viewer and reader:

Beneath flowering branches
You sit relaxed like the twilight
With the blue sky and the yellow sun on either side of you
Resting your cheek on your arms, 
Bare arms like waterfalls; 
But that which the night will wash away 
I cannot stay sharing -
Your dreams in the sun.

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