Protest and art: Workshop players take their act to Galle Face | Print edition

By Shannon Salgadoe

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A message through art: Jérôme and the other participants. Photo by MA Pushpa Kumara

The art was actively associated with the ongoing Aragalaya movement. Whether it’s painters and mixed media artists showcasing their installations or a hundred voices singing a revolutionary song, there’s no doubt that art in all its forms helps bring people together around a cause.

It is with this idea that the Atelier des Joueurs and the Artists of the Popular Movement organized a theater workshop last Sunday on the Galle Face protest site. Led by Jérôme L. de Silva, this was the first in a series of interactive workshops.

“As artists, we came together to spread the message of Aragalaya,” explains Jérôme, who founded The Workshop Players in 1992. “Why did it all start? Why did the oppressed peoples come together 56 or 57 days ago? They have come together and now speak with one voice as a nation, which has never happened in the entire history of this country.

Gaining momentum with thousands peacefully demonstrating against the mismanagement of the country, “GotaGoGama” has become the epicenter of the protest. However, the unfortunate events of May 9 seem to have caused a drop in membership, which Jerome said needed to be revived “in a peaceful and pleasant way”.

The participants, aged 7 to 35, worked on basics like breathing techniques and rhythm, then tapped into their creative potential to create sound poems, stories and drawings. “This first workshop is just a taste of what kind of talent we have here, or what people want to find out because it’s a huge, dramatic process,” says Jerome.

The seasoned director has run many similar workshops in the past in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee at the height of the conflict. For the workshops on the site of the demonstration, he designed a program that echoes the current political climate and draws inspiration from renowned theater practitioners such as Augusto Boal who founded the Theater of the Oppressed, Bertolt Brecht who developed and practiced epic theatre, and Konstantin Stanislawski who developed a systematic method of training actors.

Jerome plans to include elements of choreography and how they vary for theatre, musical theatre, song and dance, as well as character design, which is “designing for the character in a particular location. It’s not just about doing research; it starts with the emotions, purpose and feeling of the character.

The majority of participants came by chance on their way to Aragalaya. “It’s my first time to come for something like this,” said Saddha Mangala Dissanayake, who had come from Kuliyapitiya. Zaahid Aman has been part of The Workshop Players productions before and wanted to experience something new – “the concept of doing this in this Aragalaya”.

In a heartwarming gesture, the “residents” of the protest site brought coffee, bottled water and cookies as refreshments.

Visit The Workshop Players Facebook page for more information.

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