Mirror Magazine


Designer Michael Wijesuriya leaps all bounds with flames of black and yellow artistically painted on Natasha and Wasantha, our Mirror Magazine models this week. Ramani Fernando Salons were responsible for capturing the mood of the art in their hair and make-up. The models were photographed by Mettasena.


Aladdin, genies, magic carpets, Eastern adventures, love stories and so much more......
A whole new world
By Radhika Dandeniya
When you hear the word "Aladdin", what is the first thought that enters your head? Genies? Magic carpets? Eastern adventures and love stories? Everyone has their own favourite part in "Aladdin" and The Yolande School of Speech and Drama are presenting their own unique and unconventional version at the Lionel Wendt on May 10, 11 and 12.

It will not be a mere Disney cover though, nor will it be the tale you fondly remember reading when you were little. In May, amateur child actors and renowned adult dramatists alike join forces to bring original songs, dance routines and vibrant acting to the stage. The result: A fresh and lively adaptation of the Chinese tale we know so well.

Directing the play is Samantha Abeywira de Soysa, head of the famous school for amateurs in the performing arts since 1994. "Drama is not an academic subject. It is a learning hands on experience," she affirms. This has been her view as well as that of her mother Yolande Abeywira, the founder of the school. Samantha herself is highly qualified in the field, having attended prestigious institutions such as the Royal Academy of Drama Association in London, U.K.

The production is mainly for the benefit of children's drama. "They are all having fun, bonding together and gaining valuable experience," explains Samantha. Ranging from ages 8 to 16, the cast consists of 140 members from schools all over Colombo. The play was originally intended for a cast of 70, yet when many wanted to audition, Samantha decided to let them all take part. She emphasizes that whilst everyone gets a chance to play a part, whether it be a leading character or a Chinese citizen in the background, they are most importantly "happy" to be there.

However, the leading characters Aladdin and the evil uncle are not played by amateur dramatists. "I needed some older and more experienced members to lend a hand to the young cast and give them more confidence," Samantha says. Former member of the acting school and now well known playwright, Indu Dharmasena portrays the evil Egyptian uncle 'Abazaar'. Says Indu, "Yolande Abeywira was my 'guru', I first got into drama when I heard her directing children in a production." Indu then became Mrs. Abeywira's protégé, starring in her productions and going wherever she went. "It was her construction of plays that taught me how to write my own," she remarks.

22-year-old Christopher Stephen plays the 'street-rat' hero Aladdin. Althoug he's been singing and acting for the past fourteen years he is not an actor by profession, but continued with drama as a source of relaxation. When Samantha approached him with the part he readily agreed. " It doesn't matter what part you get, because being on stage is fun," he says. "Of course the bigger the part, the bigger the challenge!"

The play also has professional helpers. " The whole business of a play does not rest on the actors' shoulders but on the backup," says Samantha, explaining that she and Kumudini Amaratunga have collaborated with Michael Wijesuriya in making the costumes.

China became the chosen influence in dress. The play itself is described as Chinese with a "tinge" of Egyptian. This is partly featured in Abazaar's costume, which is based on Arabian styles. "The play is Chinese but the Evil Uncle element is Egyptian," says Samantha. However the rest of the costumes are Chinese.

Soundarie David is responsible for the singing and musical accompaniment. Singing allows the actors to explore their roles. Christopher explains that Aladdin being a very "lovey-dovey" character in the play, therefore does not allow much scope for his acting. However, one part he enjoys most is the song he sings 'I'm in a Soup', where he gets to act differently.

Veteran dance teacher Oosha Saravanamuttu trains the dancing routines. Samantha regards her as one of the most professional in the field, equipped with a vast amount of experience in choreography. Oosha has also worked with Yolande Abeywira herself in the past.

Interior Designer of the Year 2001 (as well as 2000 and 1999) Shiromi Misso is the set designer, producing scenes from both China and Egypt.

Shannon Misso (15) plays heroine "Princess SeyWhen" (a comical pun on the phrase "Say when"). She has been a member of the Yolande School for two years. "I love drama where you can immerse yourself in a character," she says. Princess Seywhen appeals to Shannon because she is so different from herself, i.e shy, submissive and always listening to her mother!

Aladdin would not be Aladdin without the magnificent genic 'A La Kazam'. 15-year-old Damith Kulatunga takes on the role and given his imposing stature, it can be seen why he would be perfect for the part. Damith also admits that he is an avid reader of fantasy therefore playing the genie is a great opportunity. An accomplished pianist and soprano, he is described as a very talented and "versatile" actor. Damith hopes to continue his acting career; "I have an inclination for drama, it's life sustaining for me. To be on stage is so thrilling!"

Other special features of the play are a rendition of the Disney classic 'A Whole New World' and a cameo performance by a dragon!

Tickets for the show are now on sale at St. Bridget's Convent. "Aladdin" is sponsored by 'Nestle Lanka', 'KFC' and 'Access International Sri Lanka Ltd'.

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