"We of the Eighties" (Asuve Api), uniting participants of theatre workshops held in the eighties decade at the Soviet-Sri Lanka Friendship League, will honour their four "gurus" at 6 pm on November 28, at the Elphinstone Theatre in Colombo, in a ceremony named "Aswenna".
Veteran make-up artiste and actor Vasantha Vittachchi, award-winning film, stage play and television director Parakrama Niriella, theatre music director and actor H.A. Perera and Tower Hall Theatre Foundation Director-General and lawyer Douglas Siriwardena will be presented with "Aduru Harasara" awards on this occasion. Proceedings will be led by cinema and stage personalities Sumithra Peries, Irangani Serasinghe, Somalatha Subasinghe and Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, interspersed with concert items of songs and excerpts from stage plays. The special oration of the "gurus" will be delivered by theatre personality Jayalath Manoratne.
"The demise of respected people, heard over TV and radio, tormented us that we were not treating our teachers well, the result of which was Aswenna, 25 years after the workshops, " said stage actress Mali Jayaweerage, Treasurer, Asuwe Api. Asuve Api souvenir will be a collection of informative writing on the local history of theatre workshops, street theatre and pioneers of the past years. Articles contributed by Jayantha Chandrasiri, Kumara Siriwardhana and other veterans in the arena, will make it ideal for school libraries, said Jayaweerage.
The workshops, held free of charge from 1984 to 1988, were the launching pad for tele-drama, stage play and film directors and actors, radio announcers, journalists, script-writers, make-up artistes, doctors, engineers, lawyers and even politicians, numbering nearly 200 and now recognised for their individual ability. Dr. Sena Nanayakkara, Jayalal Rohana, Jayantha Chandrasiri, Jayalath Manoratna, Ashoka Handagama, Anoma Jinadari, Sudath Mahadivulwewa, Malcolm Machado, Udeni Alwis, Mali Jayaweerage, Manohari Hewawasam, Channa Perera, Ajith Lokuge, Nilmini Buwaneka and Central Provincial Council Chairman Saliya Bandara Dissanayake are among them. "Of these, over 40 people work full-time in the theatre field," said tele-drama and stage actor Ajith Lokuge.
Douglas Siriwardena, the initiator of the workshops, blossomed as a playwright with "Ambu Semiyo" while working in Thulhiriya Textile Mills. Earnings from theatre productions paid his way through Law College. "Suba Sendevak" and "Hitler" were his other plays in the seventies. Involved in the National Youth Council theatre workshops conducted all over the island, he graduated to the Soviet-Sri Lanka Friendship League workshops, assisted by Parakrama Niriella, H.A. Perera and Vasantha Vittachchi as Instructors. Political violence in the later years called a halt to the workshops.
Parakrama Niriella is credited for his contributions to the open-air theatre in Sri Lanka. Through his Open Art Circle, he scripted and directed the award-winning stage play "Sekkuwa" for which Perera directed music. After producing stage plays "Galileo" and "Uttamavi", he joined National Rupavahini and scripted and directed the tele-drama "La Hiru Dahasak". Later, he became an independent artiste and directed the award-winning film "Siri Medura." Niriella is the founder of "Jana Karaliya" folk theatre troupe which produced the play "Charandas" in both Sinhala and Tamil.
H.A. Perera, asked by a friend to join Ranga Shilpa Shalika conducted by Dhamma Jagoda at Lionel Wendt, came in the hope of studying music but found his vocation changed to acting. He acted in the stage plays "Raja Dekma", "Bosath Dekma", the banned "Wedikkarayo", "Spartacus", "Julius Caesar" and as Jesus in Niriella's first film direction "Palamuveniya saha Anthimaya", Sumithra Peries' "Sagara Jalaya Madi Henduwa Oba Sanda" and left an indelible mark as an actor in the film "Keli Madala". He directed music in Niriella's stage plays and was the first instructor of Jana Karaliya. On stage, he won the awards for Best Actor and Best Music Direction. On cinema, He won the award for Best Supporting Actor. Though Perera has not acquired a university degree, he is said to possess a vast knowledge and practical experience in the theatre field.
Vasantha Vittachchi is the first local make-up artiste to win awards in all three fields of theatre, cinema and television. He joined Niriella's Open Art Circle in the seventies, studied under Dr. Solomon Fonseka and acted in street theatre. He was the make-up artiste Ranjith Wickramasinghe's assistant in Chandran Ratnam's film "Aadara Kathawa" and continued being a make-up assistant in the films "Viragaya" and "Kristu Charitaya". His first award in make-up was for the stage play "Abuddassa Kolama" and the first film award was for Boodie"s "Sihina Deshaya." (Profiles provided by Manohari Hewawasam, Secretary, Asuve Api.)
‘The demise of respected people, heard over TV and radio, tormented us that we were not treating our teachers well, the result of which was Aswenna, 25 years after the workshops, “ said stage actress Mali Jayaweerage, Treasurer, Asuwe Api. Asuve Api souvenir will be a collection of informative writing on the local history of theatre workshops, street theatre and pioneers of the past years. Articles contributed by Jayantha Chandrasiri, Kumara Siriwardhana and other veterans in the arena, will make it ideal for school libraries, said Jayaweerage’