‘Samanalayaya’ or ‘A Field of Butterflies’ is a familiar name among our participants, their families, our well wishers and supporters. The drama festival is the highlight of the Sunera calendar bringing together over 1000 disabled participants from 29 Sunera Foundation performing arts workshops spread across the country, to showcase their talents.
The journey began with each workshop rehearsing a play which is conceptualised, scripted and directed by the Sunera Trainers, six months prior to taking the stage. This led to nine regional drama festivals which were held during the months of February and March 2016, in different areas, for the local community. The unique feature of each of these theatrical pieces was that every participant in these 29 workshops played a part in their workshop performances. This brought much joy not only to the participants, but to their families who had little hope for their children, their community who witnessed their abilities, and to their trainers who saw the fruits of their commitment to enhancing the lives of these young disabled persons.
These performances were evaluated by a panel of judges and the best three plays were selected for the finals in Colombo. This year’s best dramas were produced by Dehiwala, Imaduwa and Kuliyapitiya workshop participants, who took the stage for the finals and shone in talent and enthusiasm. The finale of ‘Samanalayaya 2016’ was held on May 18th at the Lionel Wendt Memorial Theatre, Colombo.
The first play of the evening, titled ‘Akuru Wepuru Hena’, was performed by the participants of the Dehiwala workshop and dealt with the current Elephant Human conflict faced by villagers of Sri Lanka. This story was set in a village in which lives a farmer and his family who are subject to periodic attacks by elephants. The livelihood and lives of the farming community are thus at great risk. The elephants in turn are threatened by human encroachment as more jungle areas are cleared for cultivation. Meanwhile, the younger people of the community have their own difficulties and disruptions of their activities. As the story and the plot unfolded, the cast presented the message of being united through the challenges which always ends well.
‘Okkoma Minissu’, performed by the participants of the Imaduwa workshop took the stage second with a clear message on reconciliation. This story focused on conflicts between and among human beings the world over, which inevitably lead to hostility, alienation, destruction and death. The story set in an orphanage situated in a war zone, showed that despite superficial differences, all of us share a common humanity, when they bravely housed a wounded soldier and a rebel, standing up to recognize and respect this reality.
The third drama of the evening was presented by the participants of the Kuliyapitiya workshop, and was a comedy titled ‘Kema Rahai’. The story was set in a restaurant in a small town where the cooks and waiters are busy taking orders from the customers and preparing food. Everything seems to go smoothly until some customers begin feeling unwell and stumble out of the restaurant. The laughter from the audience escalated when the inspectors came to check the restaurant and the staff had to get their act together with little time and plenty of rats and cockroaches! Again, a team effort from the waiters, cooks and the owner himself, got the restaurant up and running again, in good order.
The two lively dance items presented by the Dehiwala, Maharagama, Thirippane, Anuradhapura Palugaswewa and Kekirawa workshops had the audience applauding and cheering!
A noteworthy performance was given by the mothers of the Negombo workshop when they took the stage with an entertaining dance item which was appreciated by all. Samanalayaya 2016 saw the dedicated involvement of the parents’ committees in supporting the performances not only off stage with logistics but also on stage where many of them acted alongside their children in some of the performances.
Samanalayaya 2016 was yet again a success! While raising awareness about our work with the disabled, using the performing arts as a therapeutic tool, this drama festival instills self-confidence in our participants and facilitates the integration of the biggest minority group in Sri Lanka, into main stream society.