World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Theatre of Sri Lanka

Article Id: WHEBN0010924879
Reproduction Date:

Title: Theatre of Sri Lanka  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Lionel Wendt Art Centre, Radio in Sri Lanka, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Media of Sri Lanka, WikiProject Sri Lanka/Vital articles
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Theatre of Sri Lanka

An audience watches a performance at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre

Theatre of Sri Lanka originated from traditional rituals and folk dramas in the 19th century. Until that period, the art was confined to small villages and didn't have a national presence. Influential dramatist Ediriweera Sarachchandra attributes this to the influence of Theravada Buddhism, which he believes to have "tended more toward solitary contemplation and the attainment of insight than towards congregational practices or participation in community life."

History

Early forms

Dramas in Sri Lanka began first with ritualist performances of early polytheistic religions. Originating as masked dances interspersed with short comic scenes and improvised dialogues honouring gods and ridding demons, these gradually became free of religion and organised forms of entertainment.

These early dramas were called kolam, and wove together loosely-structured characters from everyday life in a casual fashion. The characters, for the most part, were satirical and figures of amusement, if not in their introductory song or chant, then in the designs of the masks and the miming of the roles. The loose-ness of the dramas allowed for varying characters that could be kept or removed as the performing group wanted.

Popular characters included a king, town crier, various officials like the mudaliyar, clerk, and the King's representative, and policemen; each different play yielded different forms of these roles. Also included were village characters such as the farmer and his wife, the washerman and his wife, and types of gods, demons and animals. Some dramas, after the arrival of Europeans, featured a white male character named Sinho (from Portuguese "senhor") and a white female character named Nona (from Portuguese "dona" or Lady). They would dance together unlike the other characters who performed dances individually, concluding with the Nona getting on to Sinho's back. The first written account of a kolam by Englishman John Calloway in 1829 also describes a scarred white soldier character. Other figures of satire included Andi gura, a guru from India who tricks people into giving him money and a landesi (Dutch) couple.

These plays never grew beyond their initial crudeness, but contributed to the development of Sinhalase theatre.

Modern theater

The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre was constructed as a major venue for the performing arts

With the arrival of Europeans and urbanisation, the Sinhalese began to view theatre as a serious and secular art. At first, urban dramas were derivative borrowing heavily from English drama, or from Parsi theatre musicals (nurti) and Bombay and South Indian operatic plays (nadagam). These catered to a small audience, and drew the ire of strict Buddhists who considered them worthless. They were further attacked by the development of a "Protestant" Buddhism, a revival of the religion that stressed strict adherence to its law. Therefore, the words kolam and nadagam took a connotation of something ridiculous or nonsense in Sinhala.

It would take until the 1950s for serious Sinhala dramas to develop. With independence of Ceylon from Great Britain and a widespread appreciation of Sinhala culture, Ediriweera Sarachchandra led the movement for serious Sinhala theater. Sarachchandra's work, which brought together elements of the early folk ritual and dance drama tradition with Western theatre methods and stage style, created a new genre of theatre that appealed to all classes.

Major Venues

Major theatres in Sri Lanka include University of Colombo; Navarangahala of the Royal College, Colombo; Elphinstone Theatre and the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre. The Lionel Wendt Art Centre and the Nelung Arts Centre combines live theater and art exhibition, with exhibition galleries and theaters.

Modern theater

References

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.