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Bearing Fruit—Even Tomatoes: MHC's Strategic Plan Yields Success

Civilization Begins with a Rose—and a Plan

Botanic Garden as Metaphor

Leadership and the Liberal Arts: The Weissman Center for Leadership

Speaking Up for Speaking, Arguing, and Writing

January Term Internships: From Monkeys to Marketing

Maps, Memories, and More with the Click of a Mouse

Sharing Meals and More in the Kosher/Halal Dining Room

Putting Tomatoes on the (Genetic) Map

Mount Holyoke Enjoys Banner Years for Applications

High-Tech Room Lets Musicians Play in Virtually Any Venue

Tallying Up the Success of the Plan

Indika Senanayake '03: Transformation Through Performance

A Work of Art on Many Levels: Mount Holyoke, the Mountain

"Greening" Mount Holyoke's Curriculum

Geologist Elizabeth "Betty" Wilson '72 Brings Energy to J-Term

Hannah Kolak '03: Her Worlds Collided

Getting Concrete about Environmental Stewardship

Everything on Track with Langhan Dee '04

Athletics Scoreboard

On the Mount Holyoke Campaign Trail

Five College Center Brings People Together Through Language

Reaping the Rewards of The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003

Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista

SUMMER 2003 • VOLUME 8, NUMBER 1
SPECIAL ISSUE: REAPING THE REWARDS OF
THE PLAN FOR MOUNT HOLYOKE 2003

Plan goals: Encourage greater integration of the performing and expressive arts in the curriculum and College life • Embrace diversity and build an inclusive community of students, faculty, and staff

 
 
FRED LEBLANC
  Indika Senanayake's performance piece, created as part of her senior thesis, was based on her observation of Sri Lankan rituals and her experience of her culture's rites of passage.
While growing up in Sri Lanka, Indika Senanayake '03 didn't experience professional theater. It basically doesn't exist there. But when she got a taste of what it's like to be onstage--performing in a play directed at the College by visiting artist Chuck Mike during her sophomore year--a theatre arts major, perhaps even a star, was born. Inspired by her experience with the play and by Mike, a practitioner of "theatre for development," Senanayake became fascinated with "transformation through performance" and in theatre for development (a form in which performers visit a community in a developing country, discuss pressing social issues with its members, create and perform a play, and involve community members in the production).

These interests have taken her as far afield as Ghana, where she explored theatre for development as a junior, and back to her native country, where she researched cultural practices last summer. Upon her return this fall and in consultation with Mount Holyoke faculty members in departments as wide-ranging as dance, anthropology, and theatre arts, Senanayake created and performed a theatrical tour de force at the College in March. The piece was based on her observation of Sri Lankan rituals focusing on transformation and altered states of being (including a rarely seen exorcism ritual) and her experience of her culture's rites of passage.

"The parallel suspension of consciousness that can occur in the spheres of ritual and theatre is at the heart of my formal explorations," she says. "My piece drew on my transformations as a woman and emergent artist negotiating ideals of beauty and womanhood in Sri Lanka, Ghana, and the U.S. The seven traditional Sri Lankan rites of passage were integral to the shaping of the performance. They have served as a prism through which to filter the light of my discoveries as a woman from a traditional culture of restraint making her way through a world of limitless freedom."

With the hope of continuing her journey of discovery, Senanayake has applied for an Alumnae Association fellowship that would enable her to return to Sri Lanka after graduation to examine "the Dance of the Long Hall," the only form of traditional dance practiced exclusively by women there, and to work with the only women's street theatre group in her country. She then plans to create an interdisciplinary performance piece, drawing on Sri Lankan myths of transformation and re-invention. When it is complete, Senanayake would like to perform it in communities in both Sri Lanka and the United States. Joyce Devlin, Mount Holyoke professor and chair of theatre arts and Senanayake's adviser, would certainly be in the audience. "Indika's work revolves around universal themes; we see ourselves in a different culture," says Devlin. "This brings all of us closer and bridges difference. It's a wonderful use of theatre."

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