mind adventures

an experimental theatre company set up in sri lanka in 1999.

To The Editor of the Sunday Observer Magazine

While thanking you for the positive press given to our show ‘Samurai’ (Sunday Observer Magazine, 13 April 2008: ‘The Word on the Samurai Sword’), I would like to place on record a few comments I feel compelled to make – not merely in the interest of the general public which reads your magazine – but also as a practitioner of English Theatre in Sri Lanka.

The writer of the article clearly intended no ill-will towards either me or the cast. It is also equally clear that she had not grasped many aspects of the play and chose to write about it regardless of whether she had full possession of the facts or not.

I do not call it a ‘review’ because it is purely descriptive and lacks any attempt at analysis. In fact, in her own words,

“I daresay, the ending was abrupt and I have no idea why Geoffrey Case had it this way. I mean in the end, the warriors anyway get the sword so what was the fuss with all the citizens and the villain fighting tooth and nail just to keep their sword?”

Why write about something you do not understand, only to say that you do not understand it? What will your readers gain from this?

This was a play for children, with themes of greed and corruption. Our publicity material clearly states this. All this information and more, was on our company’s blog (www.daytripper.wordpress.com), which she is aware of. Again, in her words,

“Some theatre-goers told me it was childish and somewhat just not what they expected.”

Had she bothered to do some research with a phone call, or email to me (I know she has my contact details), she would have been able to inform readers that it was supposed to be for kids. Instead of which she informed the public that she was “…a little confused…”

“Moreover, others thought of action and didn’t really sink in the comedy story properly.”

Please could you explain to me exactly what she means here? I must confess her poor grammar is what I find most saddening about this whole article. Here is another example:

“However, Tracy told that it was a time training these young drama actors and actresses
from scratch.”

I can confidently state that I ‘told’ no such thing. I was speaking to her about teaching the cast the basics of movement in traditional Japanese theatre, and adapting them for our own particular use.

She goes on to write,

“ In the end, it was all a dream and the last scene shows the citizens talking about their dreams and how they were bad and gasp at their state of being ‘uncivilised.”

It was not a dream – the magical Samurai sword in question had in fact taken the citizens into the future. Even children in the audience seem to have grasped this.

I have been a reader of your publication for several years, and find it shocking that you publish articles of such poor quality written by unmotivated, uninspired writers. I have no personal bone of contention with the young lady in question; in fact I’m sure she is full of good intentions. However, it is obvious she is utterly unqualified to be a journalist as her grasp of the English language is poor at best; she clearly had not researched the subject of her article; she did not take any notes when I spoke to her, nor did she have a Dictaphone.

Perhaps writers of her calibre should be trained, or apprenticed to more experienced writers so that she will learn what it is to be a journalist. There are very few trained journalists covering the arts, unlike in news, business or sports writing, and this is a real shame. As one of the leading English publications in the country, this sort of sub-standard writing does you no credit, and must surely be an irritant to the many subscribers who trust you to provide them with intelligent, accurate content.

Kind Regards,

Tracy Holsinger

(Aritstic Director – Mind Adventures Theatre Company)



  Sanjana Hattotuwa wrote @

Dear Tracy,

I am surprised that you are so taken aback by the Observer’s standard of English writing, or perhaps you were just being polite?

There is however one issue I want to clarify. That the play was aimed at children was evident quickly after the performance began, but it was a genuine surprise to me (and I can assure you to many others that night and on other nights). Mea culpa perhaps, given your assertion that publicity material clearly stated that the play was for children.

On the other hand, I was emailed the poster for the play by several persons and it had no mention whatsoever that it was aimed at children. I first read about the play on your blog. There was no mention there either of children as the intended audience of the play. You speak of your interest in involving more youth in your productions (which is fantastic), but that to me is very different to saying that Samurai was aimed at children.

In fact, a search on your blog for “children” brings up no results whatsoever for Samurai either.

Though I sat through the production and believe on the night I came for it that it worked far better inside the BC audi with its intimacy and lighting than outside, I was disappointed and felt cheated almost to come with the expectation of theatre qualitatively different to that which I saw.



  Aavon Fernando wrote @

Aavon Fernando: Equilibrium Lost says;

here here! (clap clap applause from this end)

  daytripper wrote @

hi sanjana,

yes, i am surprised, as i have been under the assumption that there are editors to fix these sort of things. and yes, i was being polite because i’m sure the writer could improve with some guidance that is obviously lacking.

the post you have linked to on your comment has a sentence that goes something like this “…we will… focus on youth theatre initiatives. this is why ’samurai’ is such a departure from the usual tone and complexity of the plays we have staged in the past.”

youth theatre is defined as theatre which is aimed at those between the ages of 10 – 25.

both sunday times articles about the play also specifically mention the word ‘children’ and the age group we were targeting.

however, you are right and i do acknowledge that i didn’t use the word ‘children’, using the word ‘youth’ instead when i blogged.

this is something we obviously have to fix for the rest of our productions this year, since they are all youth theatre shows aimed at a primary audience aged between 10 – 25. there’s also an explanation highlighted in blue on our ‘about’ post on the site page, and it has been there since january.

i expected confusion from our regular audience members, however, i also felt it was important for them to witness the change in direction our shows would be taking this year.

i’m sorry you feel cheated and disappointed. best not to come for any more of our shows this year then 🙂

  D. wrote @

I missed the play so can’t really comment on it. I read this article and the bad grammar and poor style of writing is not really a shocker, given that it’s written by Nilma Dole. I don’t know if you’ve read a couple of posts on kottu regarding her blog; pathetic would be an understatement. Her writing is confusing and headache-inducing even in the rare instance when her grammar is correct. She manages to spin out reams of complete and utter nonsense.
It’s a shame they didn’t send a better journalist who could’ve given you some contructive criticism.

  Sanjana Hattotuwa wrote @

Hi Tracy,

I think you place far too much faith in English journalism in general and what passes for it in the Observer. Perhaps you missed David Blacker’s post on what they wrote on the Galle Literary Festival or the fact that under one of its Editors, the paper actually repeatedly engaged in plagiarism.

You say “youth theatre is defined as theatre which is aimed at those between the ages of 10 – 25. youth theatre is defined as theatre which is aimed at those between the ages of 10 – 25. both sunday times articles about the play also specifically mention the word ‘children’ and the age group we were targeting.”

Good to know. Missed both articles but someone else also did tell me that they had seen them. However, my point remains that contrary to what you emphatically noted in your letter to the Editor (“Our publicity material clearlystates this.”), it did not. It would have been helpful to feature more prominently the definition of “youth theatre” you suggest in your comment than wait for the post facto confusion of journalists to bring it out.

You end by advising me that it would be “best not to come for any more of our shows this year then “. This is a leap of logic I would not myself have made. Linked to what I wrote above, “Youth theatre” can be seen in any number of ways – productions by youth are not necessarily for youth and children. one could argue that to make plays for children may require no more or less than pantomime, which clearly is not what you are attempting to do. In the case of Samurai, where the average age of actors would have been around 20 (or more) it would have been unfair by the actors themselves to assume that it was primarily directed at children. Hence the somewhat jarring mismatch between what I expected and what I experienced.

However, the thing about expectations is that they can be adjusted (which you will recognise is not the same as lowering them). I’m looking forward to your next production and indeed, writing about it. We can both agree I hope that leaving theatre reviews to the likes of the Observer is clearly untenable.



  daytripper wrote @

sanjana, i’m not really inclined to deconstruct the play in this kind of format, as i find trying to have a conversation in this manner is very time consuming, and makes my eyes hurt, and my wee midgets cranky. besides, the conversation we’re about to not have would be much faster – and more fun – face to face. i suspect this will happen quite soonish anyway, as i have asked your wife to play one of the lead roles in the next production.

yes yes, all thoughts on youth theatre accepted, and i promise to address them in future. the ‘don’t come for our plays in the future’ was an attempt at humour – failed, obviously. but if we had been talking…

  daytripper wrote @

look, i would also just like to say i wrote this to the editor of a leading publication, pointing out that this kind of writing is unacceptable. the arts have been given step-motherly treatment in the press recently, and it drives me nuts. this is purely a comment on an unacceptable standard of writing, which the editor had a duty to try and fix in some manner before publishing. i saw no such evidence, and after having being reviewed by sonali samarasinghe, sinharaja tammita-delgoda, neidra vittachi and the likes…it is appalling to see what commentary on the arts has sunk to. it is not a personal attack against the writer in any way, except that she should learn her craft much better. i don’t want this to turn into a thread of personal slander. thank you.

  shehal wrote @

we all enjoyed the play and i thought you and your team did a great job entertaining us (although i saw only one cast perform)

most critics fail to appreciate the effort one puts in producing a play leave alone understanding it.

thank you for producing samurai.

anger leads to the dark side
so dont let these dysfunctional negativities get to you

  s wrote @

as I was reading this I guessed who the journalist must be and a google search proved me right. this is her blog. this is her blog http://hearsayprincess.blogspot.com/ that should give you an idea as to what kind of a journalist she is.

  Nick Farr wrote @

I went to see this play with my partner and our two children. In my opinion the play deserved the bad review it got as it was an exercise in mediocrity. From the script to the actors to the sets to the lighting, it was of a poor standard.

Instead of getting so annoyed at a bad review and the journalist’s poor command of the English language, Ms. Holsinger should perhaps focus on getting a better product out there the next time. Then she might get better reviews (albeit with bad English grammar!)

  daytripper wrote @

nick, perhaps the poor quality of the writing is what prevented you from realizing that the review was complimentary.

  HearsayPrincess wrote @

Tracy Holsinger is arguably one of the best playwrights this country has to offer but I can not comprehend why she can’t write an original script. She can take not only Sri Lanka but the world by storm by not just focusing on adapting popular drama or drama by other writers, but work on her unique and Sri Lankan style. I can’t compare her with people like Feroze and Indu who have garnered a name for themselves with their original and comical productions but she should look into that retrospect. I love listening to her on ‘Another State of Mind’ on local radio but she has been too westernized that I fear she isn’t highlighting or focusing on her own distinct style. However, everybody is shaped by the way they were brought up and have their perceptions of the world but with undue respect to her, I think it’s high time she delve into something different and unique.

  daytripper wrote @

fact one: I am not a playwright. I am a director. perhaps this might help your comprehension?

fact two: i quit radio 4 years ago, and have not hosted a regular show since, and have certainly never hosted anything called ‘another state of mind’.

this post was a response to the factual incorrectness of an article published in the observer, written – so i am given to understand – by you.

why don’t you focus a bit more of your enegies on this?

  Aysh wrote @

Perhaps if these two fractions inter changed roles they would understand each other better. I feel sorry for Nilma though, as she works at one of the most sub standard, politically manipulated news paper and hence has her perfect writing chopped into the Sri Lankan English O/L standard. I am sorry to see this happen as before writing this article she was highly excited to meet you Tracey. As for the show ‘Another State of Mind’ Nilma I think you need to do your home work. Tracey left TNL I think when they shifted from Bamba? 🙂
I am not in SL so I can’t comment on the play what I can say is I felt extremely cheated when I went for Indus’ ‘Harry Potta’ a few years back. Perhaps a better and more clearer marketing strategy is need?

  ravana wrote @

Dear God.

  Angel wrote @

Oh dear… just came to have a peek after reading this soon after it was poste. My comment has vanished! :S I can’t remember exactly what I said… but I do remember expressing interest at the editor’s response… any feedback?

The comment of the original author continues to display poor command of inglish. How can you look IN TO a retrospect?

  Sharaku wrote @


Hats off to Tracy for taking up this issue so well.

I would also like to make a comment on a statement made by Sanjana…

“In the case of Samurai, where the average age of actors would have been around 20 (or more) it would have been unfair by the actors themselves to assume that it was primarily directed at children.”

The actors were well aware that the play was primarily directed at children, and I don’t see any reason why it would have been unfair.

Kids are the future of our world, and Samurai did indeed portray how bad qualities such as greed and corruption can destroy a person. One of the best ways to educate them is through entertainment, which was our target, where as most cartoons show violence instead. And just as it is a lesson for kids, it’s a great lesson for us adults too.


  Electra wrote @


The horrendous review was written by a certain Nilma Dole. The blog that guy has linked us to, saying it’s Nilma Dole’s blog is NOT Nilma Dole’s. It seems it belongs to someone called Shazrina.

I’m not sure, maybe it is Dole under a different name, but isn’t it a little doubtful that she would have a blog that loudly states “Shazrina’s Official Blog” right on top?

[…] am not kidding. Yes, that’s right. Children’s section. If nothing else, this justifies what Tracy Holsinger was talking about on her daytripper blog a few weeks ago. Don’t Sri Lankan editors check this stuff? I mean, […]

  Tavish wrote @

Whole-heartedly agree with what you have to say. I too am appalled at the lack of insight some of the journalists portray in our newspapers, especially the arts section. Even a simple movie review shows that the reviewer has not really understood the movie. Do not get disheartened, however, by these cheapshots at your production because it takes more than a lot to direct a play, especially one in a whole different style like Samurai. Kudos to you on the play and keep ’em coming.
Best wishes

  pissu perera wrote @

nilma dole and the “sweetest princess” aka princess shazrina are one and the same. if nothing else, then the bad grammar makes it obvious.

  Theena wrote @

Heh. You should check her “reviews” on local metal acts. Most of it is centered around how cute the singer or guitarist is, and how hard the drummer smashes his kit, and little on the actual music.

And don’t get me even started on her at her appalling grammar.

  Liz wrote @

Well spoken Tracy!

Wish I was around to see some of these latest plays, but reading as you “direct” the process and discussion around them is equally interesting. Nilma’s writing could certain use some polishing, and your tone thereto is exemplary — gracious and factual.

Three cheers for civil discourse!

  Minu wrote @

I can honestly roll off my chair laughing at this …….for crying out loud…any one with common sense would know that samurai was a play for kids…oh come on for the love of god n good shakespear…. google of you dont know….miss journalist lol
Tracy you and your team did an excellent job but i did feel at certain times the girl “the one who played the part of the princess” didnt play her part that well…..nothing personal just mere observance….other than that me n my friends had a great time …god it just made me wanna be a kid again who could learn things from scratch alas im too old to fit into a toddlers clothes let alone my own from last year.
I suppose its all very easy to pick on this writer girl….why cant someone else just beat her at her game?….i mean its really stupid just catting away on a blog …….feelign inspired already?…go ahead n be the next writer for teh paper n maybe then little miss writer might coem down to earth n actually absorb the quality advise Tracy gave her.

…Im counting for the next writer……1…2….3….

  weneedmediapurging wrote @

I have personally interacted with this journalist and it’s common knowledge how she keeps her job. You just have to ask some males in your community and be assured that this journalist has had a few rolls in the hay with a quite a few of them. And despite, numerous complaints she still keeps her job. I suppose she has her work place “under” her, quite literally.

Please disregard comments made by such lower beings of our community. We all love your work greatly.

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