Mar 27 2019. view 52
V Day (Writings to End Violence against Women and Girls) by the Grassrooted Trust utilizes the platform of theatre to showcase real stories from Sri Lanka based on their interaction with survivors of violence and abuse. Their previous productions include V Day 2016 Tenderness, V Day 2017 Resolution and V Day 2018 Patri(an)archy.
This year, the Grassrooted Trust presents V Day 2019 COLOMBO 07 on interviews, discussions, and conversations on the varied manifestations of gender based violence in Sri Lanka as it attempts to show that violence is not limited to rural and provincial settings.
We catch up with Director Hans Billimoria to get the behind the scenes details of this year’s production;
1.Tell us a little about V-Day and the concept behind it. How did it all start out?
- The Grassrooted Trust since 2011 has performed V Day – Writings to End Violence against Women and Girls. From 2012 Grassrooted has worked on original scripts based on our interaction with survivors of violence and abuse. In 2016, V Day - From The Cloud which dealt with cyber exploitation and violence, which was also performed at the Kandy and Galle Literary Festivals in January 2016; V Day 2016 Tenderness, V Day 2017 Resolutions, and V Day 2018 PatriANarchy. Our annual productions have built up a following over the years, and this year we perform on Sunday the 31st March, as close as possible to April 1st - our traditional date over the years.
2. What is the theme behind this year’s V Day COLOMBO 07?
- Following previous productions, among the feedback was that we should “take this message to the village". So, this year, we do just that by focusing on the hamlet of Colombo 07, to underpin that emotional, physical, and sexual violence is not limited to rural and provincial mindsets. Our gendered notions in Sri Lanka, which often lead to violence, are well established in most curious places.
3. Are there any particular reasons as to why this year’s production is focused on Colombo 07?
- All incidents portrayed in this V Day are based on reports, discussions and interviews with those based in the Colombo 7 area. This includes students from Colombo University who travel by bus and sex workers who operate in the Colombo 7 area.
4. What is the line up for this year?
"154" performed by Pasan Ranaweera, Amila Rajapaksha, Kapila Rasnayaka, W.Jayasiri, Dinoo Wickramage, Saranie Wijesinghe, Upekha Neligama Daniel and Thilakshi Mallawa Arachchi
"Tour of Duty: Cooking with Friskin" performed by Gehan Blok
"Sour Plantain" performed by Shala Amarasuriya
"Speaking in Tongues" performed by Anu Fernando and Hidaayath Hazeer
"Street Light Named Horton" performed by Dharini Priscilla & Bhoomi Harendran
"Black Coffee, No Sugar" performed by Pia Hatch, Ashini Fernando, Sharanya Sekaram, Tracy Jayasinghe and Lihan Mendis
"Can't Pass It On" Performed by Danu Innasithamby
"Deviant Septum" performed by Dominic Kellar, Dino Corera, Michelle Herft, Swasha Malalasekera and Haseeb Hassen
5. V Day tackles very sensitive content in a direct and forward way. When writing the scripts, how conscious are you of how you term or address the content?
- Every year we tone down the levels of violence and misogyny so that our actors can perform it and our audience can watch it. We also do our best to laugh at how ridiculous we can be.
6. You are working with a cast of over 15 for this year’s V-Day. What is the most difficult part of handling such a large cast?
- Every year, our cast give up their time voluntarily to perform with us. This is why most often the V Day cast remains by and large the same. There are V Day veterans like Ashini, Pia and Anuruddha who performed with us from the start in 2011. We would never be able to do this without the professionalism and dedication that our cast brings to each V Day. So sometimes the challenge is finding new faces when performing ensemble pieces; finding actors who are willing to perform our provocative content. For example, this year one of our Tamil pieces on the myths around virginity will not be performed as we could not find a cast that was willing.
7. In producing V-Day; what is the end goal you hope to achieve?
- V Day is a cathartic approach for us. It is an opportunity for us to hold up a mirror and say 'This is Us'. We believe that awareness and education is best located in our school system. Adult theatre like this does little to have a real impact on attitudinal change. For an attitudinal change, we need age-appropriate approaches to relationship education. V Day is at most about provoking a discussion. To have expectations beyond this is to have delusions of grandeur. Education reform is the only thing that will make a real change.
8. Theatre is only one aspect of how the Grassrooted Trust reaches the community. Can you elaborate on the other work you’ll do?
- We work with marginalized communities including sex workers, people living with HIV, people who use drugs, people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. And that is why we so passionately believe that our education system needs a fundamental overhaul. To battle stigma and discrimination of marginalized groups, we need facts and science to counter ignorant stereotypes and general misinformation. Similarly, to battle misogyny and patriarchy, we need lessons around respect, self-esteem, consent, and equal opportunity.
9. What can people except at V-Day 2019 COLOMBO 07?
- Come look in the mirror. You don't have to be from Colombo 07. Come look in the mirror.
V Day 2019: Colombo 07 will go on boards at Idea Hell, Colombo 3 on Sunday, 31st of March at 7pm. Tickets are priced at LKR 1500, with 50% off for students, available at the Barefoot Gallery, and are also available online via http://444.lk. Students please email http://email@example.com to reserve your ticket. V Day 2019: Colombo 07 is suitable only for adults [18+].
Pictures by: Kushan Pathiraja