The question of theatrical culture

All of the advanced theater arts in the world, from Athens in ancient Greece to Broadway today, originate in the world’s most developed cities in terms of culture and commerce. “Watching a play” here does not mean participating in witchcraft theatrical performances or religious activities.

This is the moment when audiences began to take an interest in the play after the performing arts broke away from occult activities and developed into a self-sustaining artistic medium. The uniqueness of the cities or the environment in which the play was developed is that it has become a haven where music, literature, other arts, philosophy and politics can all be practiced and improved in ways. equal.

In other words, theatrical culture has developed amidst a larger socio-cultural discourse. Even Aristotle’s poetry, which influenced all of Western theater, originated around 335 BC. AD (Poetic), at the height of all the cultural practices of Greek theater.

Studying the book, it seems to us that it is not just a book produced from theatrical productions, but a larger work of art and philosophical discourse.

However, throughout history, watching theatrical productions has been primarily an urban cultural activity. Athens, London (West End), New York (Broadway), Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Edinburgh are some of the most influential theater cultures that have had the greatest impact on world theater.

When we look at these advanced theatrical societies, we see that the idea of ​​watching the theater has always developed as a theater-centric cultural habit. It seems that where this cultural tradition does not exist, there is no relatively advanced theater. Watching a play is a cultural habit that is part of social life, like going to church or the temple.


A theater, especially the Western theater, is a complex cultural space where people meet and interact, often while watching the play. Usually in such a theater there is free space to buy or read books, and free space to hang out like a pub or cafe and sometimes a museum and gallery are also available.

We know that one of the inherent characteristics of artistic inspiration is that it is difficult for us to remain silent while having artistic inspiration and we wish to share its virtues with others.

This dialogue is very important for understanding the artwork more broadly and for improving our understanding and inspiration of life through it. The work of art is also analyzed through it.

The peculiarity of this environment is that people meet in an inspiring way (theater) based on human experience. In societies where drama is often seen, the most interesting subcultural traits that have developed have more liberating and exploratory ideas about life in their own way.

Sri Lanka

Now let’s look at Sri Lanka. Here we have to admit that something has gone drastically wrong not only with theatrical culture in Sri Lanka but also with cultural life as a whole. That is, when the Sri Lankan nation-state model was created shortly after independence, no one had a broad understanding of what this cultural life was. Cultural life here refers to activities that allow people of all ages to socialize among themselves and in spaces.

With the modernization of many Western European countries, including Japan, various measures have been taken to preserve these cultural spaces that they traditionally had in modern society in the sense of cultural exercises.

For example, when large markets such as supermarkets were established in these countries, they did not lose the small market places in the village. Even today, village fairs are held with state sponsorship as a cultural activity where non-professionals who grow and manufacture produce on a small scale socialize and sell their produce.

In Sri Lanka there was also a culture of going to the village store and spending time drinking tea or coffee and playing checkers, and later we developed a culture of volleyball where boys and the village girls would get together and play volleyball in the evenings. The government had no special plan to understand and preserve the value of this cultural life. It is in this context that theater is not widely understood as a cultural exercise beyond being a subject and a performance.

There is not a single theater in Sri Lanka that has created the idea of ​​watching dramas as a cultural habit. Generally speaking, only the Lionel Wendt theater has established itself as the most suitable theater for plays. In many other locations, the play has been shown either in school halls or in community halls and auditoriums built for other works.

The crisis of the theater, rather than the lack of proper objectivity in showing a play, is the inability to develop a theatrical culture. Usually the best part of a play begins when the actors and audience are kissing and chatting after the play. But now the warden is collecting the keys and starting to ask people to come out!

There are a considerable number of government and non-government project programs related to theater development in Sri Lanka, but unfortunately they do not seem to pay much attention to how to make theater a cultural habit.

Community theater

Once such an environment is created, it becomes a backdrop for the progressive production of quality drama. For example, there is a theater culture called Community Theater in Australia. (This is different in some other Western European countries.) It is usually found in remote areas of the city.

Performing for audiences ranging from a minimum of 25 to around 150, it is not considered professional theater. Everyone involved is from the surrounding area and while doing other work they are doing theater for fun.

The special thing about this state-sponsored event is that it has become an evening cultural activity, regardless of the drama. The reason is that the place has been transformed into a cultural space that goes beyond the representation of the play. These spaces automatically become the seat of professional plays creating new audiences and inviting artists.

What the government should have done was to keep cultural life as broadly as essential to the people as health and education by giving it a market model and sponsoring nonprofit areas. It is now proven that the art of theater does not develop only through festivals, courses and subjects.

The lack of correct ideas and concepts and the failure of their systematic implementation are even more problematic than the allocations made by the government for the theatrical arts.

In view of the importance of theatrical culture we have discussed, let us now consider two major proposals regarding the development of theater in Sri Lanka.

Performing arts complex

The first proposal is to build a performing arts complex based on the art of theater in Colombo. It should have two or three theaters of different sizes, several rehearsal rooms of different sizes, an art gallery and a performing arts museum, a bookstore, a bar with a restaurant and facilities for theatrical exercises and other arts. .

A cultural environment and advanced discourse that will lead to the production of quality theater should be developed in such venues. If desired, attempts can be made to build similar theater complexes in other parts of the country as well.

The second suggestion is to introduce children to the culture of performing arts. Drama and the performing arts, especially as a subject in school, are by no means sufficient and young children need to be culturally trained to watch plays. Go see a play on a specific day of the week at school or with the family and make the play a fun, cultural part of their school and childhood.

In many countries of Western Europe, you may have seen people reading books while traveling on the bus and even standing in line. The reason for this is the cultural habit of reading extracurricular books instilled at school level from an early age. Then there is also the example of parents.

Translated by Anuradha Kodagoda

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