Puppeteer, SULOCHANA DISSANAYAKE.
People are nonplussed when I tell them that I’m a puppeteer. It isn’t something one commonly aspires to be, especially after double majoring in Economics and Theater in an exclusive liberal arts college in New England. Many do not dig deeper to find that puppets are only an entry point for the myriad of things I do. Puppets open doors that people can’t. Puppets enter hearts of even the most hardened cynics, and do it so swiftly that they are often caught off guard. Prisoners to policemen, clergy men to soldiers, corporate icons to lost souls in half-way homes, adults and children from North to South to Colombo 7 – everyone lights up in the presence of a puppet that speaks directly to them. Puppets are the magic of communication.
I always knew I wanted to return to Sri Lanka as I was miserably lonely wherever else I lived. But I knew that performing arts was the way forward to explore, connect and reconcile communities torn apart by decades of myths, misunderstandings and mistakes. At the end of the day, we are all human. We all feel the same emotions irrespective of their triggers. Performing arts is a visceral medium that impacts the core of humans in a unique way. It allows audiences to empathize with what they see. And empathy is vital for understanding.
Progress hasn’t been easy – it’s hard to convince people to believe in a medium they didn’t know existed. But I’m blessed with family, friends, mentors & a few corporate/institutional decision makers who have experienced the power of performance first hand and believe that it is the way forward in Sri Lanka today.
So, I keep going. Thanking those who nurtured me, taught me, believed me when I was losing track of myself and gave me chances to make a living doing what I love. I rejoice that every day. But I am nothing without my pillars. Thank you. I will keep doing what you empower me to do.
Photograph by Dinuka Liyanawatte
For more information on recent projects – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Power-of-Play-PVT-LTD/206118736149418