V-Day: This time the dramatisation comes closer to home

By Duvindi Illankoon

The power of theatre is never to be underestimated. Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, inspired the V-Day movement; a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Theatre can often reach across linguistic and cultural boundaries, and it is this medium that the Grassrooted Trust will once again use this April to get their message through.

Hans Gayatri

‘ V-Day 2012: Writings to end violence against women in Sri Lanka’ will go on stage on April 1, at the Maradana Warehouse Project. Last year’s series of monologues that were performed, ‘A Memory. A Monologue.

A Rant and a Prayer: Writings to End Violence Against Women and Girls’ featured narratives from all over the world. This year they will focus on writings and issues closer to home, with a selection of pieces by authors working in the field of sexual and reproductive rights in Sri Lanka.

“These pieces are not just about women with vaginas,” Hans Billimoria, who directs the pieces along with Anuruddha Fernando points out. “The one thing they all have in common is that they are all stories about women who have faced violence in their lives, be it physical or emotional.”

The eight pieces, some monologues and some performed by several actors, are written in all three languages. Jewel’s Pieces of You deals with bigotry and prejudice, A Story from Jillabektiya Land is a political piece on Sri Lanka and its supposed exclusion from all things sexual, and Virgin Mary is a monologue on emotional violence in its most subtle form. In A Small Room a young girl speaks about getting an abortion, while Just Another Queer in Colombo is a discussion on stereotypes, misconceptions and gender identity. Beloved Sister is a monologue on the ambiguities of incest, Pray the Gay Away is an interview with a pastor on Christianity and sexual identity, and Onion Tears is a short one-act play on the ambiguities of rape.

They all focus on a topic that the organizers feel require immediate address. Violence, in all its forms, faced by women in the island. For example, did you know that 70% of Sri Lankan women on public buses face harassment everyday? Or a thousand unsafe abortions happen every single day in this tiny land? Hans lists out these statistics with the weariness of a seasoned activist-to him they are not just facts, but things that need immediate attention, and most of all, awareness.

Gayatri Nataranjan, his partner in life and work, agrees. “Part of the reason why it’s such a massive issue is that we never talk about it. And of course, the reason that it’s not is ‘culture’. Gayatri and Hans are trustees of the Grassrooted Trust, an organization that works primarily in the field of HIV, Drugs and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

They conduct workshops around the country, and meet people from all walks of life-these experiences have formed a basis for the pieces that will be presented during the show. The pieces, all written by Hans and fellow trustee Paba Deshapriya, will explore what they call different facets of one theme-violence against women.

The cast that has been rehearsing for the past six months includes Sathya Bashna, Rujuta Teredesai, Pasan Ranaweera, Pia Hatch, Uda Deshapriya, Kapila Rasnayake, Krishan Jayaratnam, M. Kalidas, Michael Holsinger and Shanuki De Alwis, Dominic Kellar and both Hans and Gayatri; all coming together for their cause. Watch them speak up and speak out, on April 1 at the Maradana Warehouse Project.

Tickets priced at Rs. 500 are available at the Commons

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