This book deals with the role of theater in Sri Lanka during the decade of the 1980s, a period of intense political violence and anomie which was known locally as bhisana kalaya, or the "time of terror." Yet even as an authoritarian government and antigovernment terrorist groups held the civilian population to ransom, theater was paradoxically permitted a great degree of freedom. Audiences flocked to theaters to see and hear satire, political innuendo, and open criticism of what was going on in society. In trying to understand this tolerance of criticism in the theater as opposed to other arenas, Ranjini Obeyesekere links it to the long tradition of satire in folk and ritual performances. She also explores the impact of Buddhism on the larger culture, which resulted in the rapid and early spread of literacy. This, together with the Buddhist tradition of skepticism and its space for questioning, created a critical attitude towards authority figures. In conclusion, the author sees today's highly politicized Sri Lankan society as a natural development of sociocultural forces that have a long history. A most unusual and absorbing book.
|Buddhism, Literacy and Political Satire|
PART ONE: THE VIOLENT DECADE: THEATER IN THE 1980S
The Political Context
The Theater Scene
Synopses of a Few Recent Plays
The Theater and the 'Open Economy'
Interviews with Young Theater Artists
PART TWO: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A THEATER TRADITION
Theravada Buddhism and Dramatic Performance
The Satiric Tradition in Folk Ritual
|The Continuity of the Satiric Tradition|
Sinhala Drama in Colonial Times
Modern Drama in the Mid-Twentieth Century
The State and the Drama Festivals
Audiences and Their Theaters