mind adventures

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

rondo

with everything we do, the greatest challenge is always to avoid being didactic. theatre thrives on metaphor – the stage becomes a country,  a group of actors becomes a nation. if art is to be subjective, then it is our responsibility as practitioners to leave room for individual interpretations of the stories we tell.

we were commissioned to create a piece about reconciliation, and my greatest fear was that we would create something too literal, too bleeding heart. i suppose the biggest stumbling block for me as a director is that i don’t believe that there is any attempt at reconciliation taking place in our country right now, that we have even begun to understand the pragmatic realities that accompany the full implications of that word. yet, it is on everyone’s lips. ‘reconciliation’, along with ‘reparations’, ‘nation building’, ‘one nation, one people’…it’s just so many words.

and it’s so easy to copy and paste such loaded words on articles of justified propaganda. they are, after all, the words we want to hear. what a wealth of connotations they offer, a movable feast for speculation and debate, for theorising, rationalising…more words, layer upon layer of them and we convince ourselves with the power of our rhetoric.

i started with just looking at the word. reconciliation. after a lot of searching, the concept of how memory shapes perception resonated very strongly. for me, reconciliation begins with creating a common narrative that accommodates both victims and aggressors and is acceptable to all, not just ‘the majority’. you can’t look to the future without acknowledging the past, yet you can’t move forward without leaving the past behind. we can only become ‘one nation’ if we have a shared history.

this led me to some questions: how does a diverse community reconcile their history? how do we piece together the truth from different perspectives? which narrative do we accept as the historical truth? is it possible for historical narrative to be unbiased without being whitewashed?

but the notion of ‘one nation’ seems quite disturbing in our particular context. if we ignore the complexities of the individual in order to create a homogenous collective, do we then lose our cultural identity?

i found these quotes inspirational, and they express our intent with more clarity than i can:

Identity is a concept of our age that should be used very carefully. All types of identities, ethnic, national, religious, sexual or whatever else, can become your prison after a while. The identity that you stand up for can enslave you and close you to the rest of the world.
—Murathan Mungan, contemporary Turkish poet

Cultures are made of continuities and changes, and the identity of a society can survive through these changes. Societies without change aren’t authentic; they’re just dead.
—Kwame Anthony Appiah, contemporary Ghanaian/British philosopher

It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar… It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one’s] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances… There is no nation which does not need to borrow from others.
—John Stuart Mill, 19th century British philosopher and economist

the devising process began with the concept of creating characters who couldn’t communicate with each other but who had to find ways of doing so. starting with the most abstract of physical exercises we have created characters that move and speak in a markedly different manner from each other.

then a couple of months ago, arun, my co-director,  came in with a selection of short stories called ‘winesburg, ohio’ by sherwood anderson. inspired by these character sketches, we created personal histories and the beginnings of a story set in an isolated, dysfunctional town located by the sea. our plot line reminded my husband deshan of a gabriel garcia marquez story that i was unfamiliar with called ‘chronicles of a death foretold’. the similarities were staggering but through this discovery and by being advised to look again at films like ‘fight club’ and ‘rashomon‘,  i hit upon using the device of the ‘unreliable narrator’, which now forms the basis of our show and its narrative structure.

as the show has developed, we’ve noticed the influence of marquez in its lyrical and allegorical quality, yet we have deliberately chosen satire over sentiment as we attempt to reconcile with a pivotal incident in the history of our town.

the show is called ‘rondo’ (rondeau). it’s a musical term for a type of movement that is generally used at the end of symphonies or concertos, and is based on repetition of a prevalent theme. a rondo is usually cheerful, with a lively tempo, but can be subdued at times as well.

‘rondo’ is sponsored by the sunethra bandaranaike trust and opens at the punchi theatre in borella on the 7th of april.

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7 Comments»

  Rondo « deshan tennekoon wrote @

[…] explain why it is called that, here. The other play in [Un]Making Time is by Floating spaces theatre company. It’s called My […]

  Theena wrote @

That was a lovely read. Looking forward to watching this, Tracy. Good luck.

  daytripper wrote @

Thanks, Theena 🙂

[…] Time brings together two new performances created by the artists – ‘Rondo’ directed by Tracy Holsinger and Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke and ‘My Other History’. […]

  A brief impression of ‘Rondo’ – Groundviews wrote @

[…] Rondo is a devised theatre play, based on the theme of reconciliation, says the programme note for the production of RONDO by Tracy Holsinger and the Mind Adventures Theatre Company. […]

[…] Holsinger’s ‘Rondo’ was in form and spirit, very different theatre. For starters, it wasn’t anchored to any […]

[…] Holsinger’s ‘Rondo’ was in form and spirit, very different theatre. For starters, it wasn’t anchored to any […]


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