Mirror Magazine

No longer a one man show
Anuradha Samarajiva talks to Delon Weerasinghe about his venture of workshops for all those who love the stage

Anyone who’s watched a play can see that it’s a coordinated effort; lighting, acting, and music come together to create a world on stage. Behind this carefully-crafted illusion comes the analysis of lines, the director’s instructions, and, in most cases, some dead playwright’s words and acting directions. Shakespeare may have written Romeo and Juliet, but the words in his script said nothing about the dozens of different interpretations and versions of the play existing today.

So the problem when working with old and established plays, as many Sri Lankan dramatists do, is that an essential element doesn’t have a voice. That’s the writer; the person who actually dreamt up the new characters and sweated over the perfect words for them to say. He or she is just not an active participant in a modern production.

“The writer should be a supportive part of the process, rather than a destructive one,” says Delon Weerasinghe, a playwright and director. Destructive, because people don’t know “how to use the knowledge of the playwright”, That’s why Delon has initiated a series of workshops for scriptwriters and actors, where he hopes to introduce a “system of working with new plays”.

The first session was for aspiring playwrights, the second which is coming up on August 14, will focus on the actors, bringing in both new and old faces. A third workshop planned for August 21 will bring the two groups together to work on the newly created scripts.

The focus of the workshop is to encourage novices to set their ideas on paper, and to get familiarised with stage personalities. Even though, Delon says, “everyone is so used to doing Shakespeare”, the novice scriptwriters came out of their first workshop full of new ideas, which they’re busy fashioning into actual plays.

The themes they’ve brainstormed range from comedies to politics. The ideas are new and innovative, but the authors have no time to rest on their creative laurels. The aspiring writers aren’t allowed to shove their scripts into the back of a drawer; they have to expose it to the rest of the world, starting with the actors.

Delon says the scriptwriters don’t know what works or sounds right until they hear it coming out of an actor’s mouth. That collaboration will take place at the third workshop, when the actors will try out the finished scripts.

The second workshop will be an introduction for actors. Delon has had great response coming from hopeful actors, even as young as ten years. During the session, they’ll go through different methods of acting, like learning how to “action” a scene. Most of all though, the experience will teach them about working with original plays.

Sometimes, according to Delon, even though “the director is the final creator”, actors try to bypass his or her directions. But, with these plays, “the writer is present to comment if that’s not what he meant”. The programme is going to “give them the tools to work with, plus a brand new play with a playwright there”. With the creator present in person, actors can learn “how to take advantage of a living writer”, making it easier to interpret and play their parts.

A play is always an interpretive work, but in these original dramas, the interpretation will be a combination of ideas the actor’s, the scriptwriter’s, and the director’s. Delon wants to create such a system with his scriptwriting and acting workshops.This new approach will offer theatregoers the prospect of more interesting and innovative theatre in Sri Lanka. The actor’s workshop will be held on Saturday, August 14, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Punchi Theatre, Borella. The workshop is open for anyone.


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