Monday, February 04, 2013

Colomboscope and Jaffna music festival in March

This year, the organizers of the Galle literary festival decided to take a break so I did not go on my annual visit to Galle this january.

However, there is to be a 2 day festival in Colombo in March called the Colomboscope at the Park Street Mews on the 23rd and 24th March under the auspices of the Goethe Institute. While not much information is available on the programme, the Goethe institute website has the following brief information. The series of art, music, literature, dance events will be centered around the theme "identities".

The Jaffna music festival on the other hand has its own website and it is the second time that the festival is being held. The event will be held on 1st and 2nd March at the Jaffna municipal grounds and is a free event, where musical artistes from around Sri Lanka and around the world perform.

While it is a pity that GLF didn't take place this year, I am looking forward to the upcoming Colomboscope and JMF.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tom Stoppard at GLF

'In conversation with Tom Stoppard on his life and art' started with a brief introduction by Shyam Selvadurai who introduced both Stoppard and the moderator, Tracy Holsinger. Two plays that I fell in love with during my contemporary drama classes at university were Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. For me, when a drama script engages me, I simply have to direct the drama and bring what I visualize in the words to life. I managed to direct Copenhagen but not Arcadia as I did not have enough cast members. What I admire most about Tom Stoppard's works are his witty play of words and how easily he manages to slip into the lives of the famous real-life characters he often brings into his plays and explores their views, by making the key protagonist a fictional character like Thomasina Coverly (supposedly based on Ada Lovelace) in Arcadia or an overlooked real life character like Henry Carr in Travesties. This is his unique style. While some plays may resemble other famous plays at a distance, like 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead' and 'Waiting for Godot', 'Travesties' and 'Copenhagen', their content is so vastly different and has Stoppard's trademark wittiness and story flow.

Here, at the Galle Literary Festival, he read passages of Bellinksy from his epic play 'Coast of Utopia', which I have neither seen or read and somehow was not too encouraged to experience, from the brief reading. What I liked more about the conversation was Stoppard rambling on about some of his experiences, responding to questions etc. He mentioned that he had received an invitation to do a reading in Australia in December and to Sri Lanka in January and that 'as it is best for divorced fathers to stay away from home during Christmas', he decided to take up both the readings. He also mentioned that as he landed in Sri Lanka, he received news that Havel had died and he had thought about going back for the funeral but decided that he would stay on in Sri Lanka.

A lot of questions from both the moderator and the audience was around Havel and his birth country, rather than his art and life as a playwright. The moderator also irked me a bit as she seemed too absorbed in sharing her own views and would take a lot of the brief time of the session in framing her views and questions.

At one point, Stoppard remarked to the effect that 'I don't ever write plays thinking of the academic point of view. I don't think of the message. Art cannot operate at that level. It needs to go beyond'. He also rhetorically questioned the audience, 'And you, bless your hearts, why are you here to listen to a playwright?', 'Drama cannot be learnt from texts, it has to be experienced' and he illustrated it with an example from a play where an actor runs off across the water where lights had been installed to respond to the touch and as he ran off, it slowly illuminated the scene and ended with fireworks as he disappeared in the distance and that the script in the play simply said 'Exit Ariel'.

At the end of the hour, I went and stood at the book signing queue to get my old copy of 'Travesties' and 'The Real Inspector Hound' signed by him. This was the second time that I have solicited writer autographs. The first was to get my copy of Copenhagen signed by Michael Frayn, also at the Galle Literary Festival a year or two ago.

Friday, January 06, 2012

GLF time again

This year's festival has some interesting writers visiting. The one main session that I will be going for this time around will be the session of another of my favourite playwrights - Tom Stoppard. My favourite plays of his are Arcadia followed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Wanted to direct Arcadia some years back but did not get sufficient cast members.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Galle Literary Festival 2011

The annual festival is back. This time round, my one day at the festival will be saturday, Jan 29th. The session I am most interested in participating is Orhan Pamuk's session as well as the session moderated by Ashok Ferrey 'More than just a laugh'.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

In remembrance of J.D.Salinger

The first writing of J.D.Salinger I came across was the short story 'A perfect day for bananafish' which had me disturbed and thinking for days as did his other short stories.

I then came across Franny and Zooey and fell in love with the book and the characters in the book. It was also nice to connect the Glass family characters in the book to the short stories that I had read before. Then, I read 'Catcher in the rye'.

I searched for more books by J.D.Salinger whose writings had by then fascinated me a lot but didn't find anymore.

However, after his death last week, lots of articles have suggested the possibility of unpublished work.

While I strongly respect his decision and wish not to have any of his writings converted to movies, I hope that his unpublished writings, if any, will be published as they are gems that should not be lost to this world.

Gillian Slovo and Michael Frayn

This time around, I decided to just go for two sessions on the final day of the Galle Literary festival on my way back from the whale watching trip in Mirissa. It was pouring by the time we reached the Galle fort, tired and hungry after our 7 hour sea trip. The session had already started when we walked up the steps to the hall at the Maritime museum and found a few seats at the end of the hall.

Gillian Slovo's Conversations on Guantanamo turned out to be a very interesting session, especially as I had not read any of her writings before nor had I ever heard her name before. What she shared about her play 'Guantanamo' and the way she described reconstructing the lives of the prisoners from the letters they sent home to their families was really engaging and has spurred me to find out more about the writer and her work.

After Gillian Slovo's session, we rushed to Halle de Galle for our next session 'Noises on'. Hungry, we decided to quickly get ourselves a bite from one of the food tents in the adjoining lawn. I decided to get a couple of vegetable rotis and a cup of hot tea but was shocked to be informed that two tiny rotis would cost 400 rupees. When I asked again thinking that I had not heard properly, the volunteer cashiers laughed and said that the prices at the festival was generally pricey. Fundraising is one thing but to sell something for ten times its original price is a bit too much. Disappointed, I got myself a cup of tea only and walked into Michael Frayn's session.

Frayn's session was THE session that I had wanted to go to as I was a fan of his play 'Copenhagen'. I had done a reading of his play for my contemporary drama course back in university and had been so taken up with the play that I had wanted to direct it. I managed to convince three of my co-students in the course - Adnan, Jakob and Misha - to act in the play and staged it as an abbreviated one act play at the Rotunda at Stockholm University one fine May evening. Having lived in the play for 2-3 months, I was very keen on meeting the playwright and even dug up my old and yellowed copy of the play so that I could have it autographed by the writer.

A tall and healthy looking elderly man walked up the stage and sat in his chair and tested the mike and started with an annecdote of a talk he gave at a university in Tasmania. Then, he went on to say that he had been surprised to see the heading for his session as he had come under the impression that he was going to talk about his serious plays - Copenhagen and Democracy. And, he decided that irrespective of the title 'Noises on' he would go ahead and speak about Copenhagen. I was thrilled.

Michael Frayn gave a short introduction to the context of Copenhagen and about the three characters in the play, Niels Bohr and his wife Margrethe and Heisenberg rising from their graves to try and answer a question that had mystified contemporaries and continues to be argued about by historians - the reason for the 1941 visit of Heisenberg to Copenhagen and his meeting with Bohr.

I have not ever before wanted to meet a writer of any of the works that I have read and loved reading but this chance encounter with Michael Frayn and listening to him talk about the play and how he went about constructing it was so moving. It was like hearing again a much loved story through the lips of a friend who has experienced it with you and was the one instrumental in bringing that experience to you. When he told the audience, 'I look at you. You look at me. What goes on in your head? I do not know. What goes on in mine? You do not know. We look at each other.' This was like a deja vu from Copenhagen. I loved it.

While I very much wanted to continue being there in the session, my friends were exhausted and wanted to return to Colombo and faced with the choice of travelling alone by public transport in the rains and reaching home by midnight and of returning with my friends in a car, I decided to be sensible and give up the rest of my session. At least, I was able to hear him speak about Copenhagen for 15 minutes.

Fortunately, I spotted a friend who was volunteering at the festival and gave her my copy of Copenhagen and requested her if she could have it autographed by Michael Frayn at the end of his session. She did so and I am waiting eagerly to receive it next week.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Galle Literary festival 2010

Time flies... the festival is back again in 2 months. Saw a festival-related news on the paper. Fathima Bhutto will a guest speaker for a fund-raising talk leading up to the festival.

My highlight of the upcoming festival will be Michael Frayn. I loved reading and directing 'Copenhagen' for a university production.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Galle Literary Festival this year

The annual festival this year will be from Jan 28 - 31.

I am very much interested in going to the following programmes:
(1) Where I escaped the tyranny of the typewriter - the tour of Taprobane island by its owner and the festival founder Geoffrey Dobbs. I have been interested in visiting this tiny private island off the coast of Matara where the rooms are rented out at exorbitant prices of over 100 dollars a night.

(2) Out of Africa - reading from Abyssinian chronicles and new writing from Africa by Moses Isegewa

(3) Time/Travel - Colin Thubron's recounting of his 7000 mile journey along the ancient silk road from China to eastern Turkey

(4) Beyond Schindler - Robert Keneally's talk about his other works