Forum theatre for a great cause!

By Shehara Alahakoon

One day, during a conversation with my supervisor Kumudu, I happened to mention that I have always loved acting in plays during school and the next thing I know, she had recommended me to Group CSR, and I became part of the Forum Theatre group for Project WAVE carried out by John Keells Foundation!

As I hadn’t had an opportunity since leaving school, I was thrilled at  being able to participate in this initiative, and started off by participating in the work shop conducted specifically for Project WAVE theatre volunteers, by Hans Billimoria. That’s when I realized that this is an opportunity not merely to act, but also to take an important message to society and that got me interested even more!

I had heard of situations where women and children were harassed and abused but until I got involved in Project WAVE, it never occurred to me the different forms of violence and the long and short term repercussions, the victims face and the different ways society looks upon both victims and abusers.

Project WAVE (Working Against Violence through Education), is all about creating awareness on Gender Based Violence, mainly focusing on harassment against women and children. It is a proven fact that people tend to bear things in mind when there is a visual presentation more than a discussion alone. That is where the Forum Theatre stepped in! Trained under Hans Billimoria, the responsibility of the Forum Theatre was to come up with customized plots relating to the different BUs in the Group and to act them out during the awareness sessions at BUs for the participants to get a better understanding on the subject matter and relate it to their day to day life.

The first day of training under Hans was unforgettable – I did not know many of the members in the forum theatre group, as I had joined JKH only about 3 months before,  and I was feeling embarrassed to perform in front of them. However, after some engagement and familiarization activities it was as if I had known them all long! It was a real ice breaker and made me more comfortable which eventually enabled me to open up and look at the issue in a more holistic manner.

When we started the discussion among the Forum Theatre group to get the plots in place, it was honestly a learning experience for me! Everyone had something valuable to contribute. Incidentally, that was the time when the ‘Wariyapola Incident’ – where a young woman verbally abused at a bus stand in Wariyapola reacted strongly against her abuser,  was on the rise and it was amazing how different people looked at the same incident in different ways! That’s when I realized how sensitive this subject was and the gravity of it, as sometimes there is no ‘right or wrong’ view but end up in a dilemma in one’s life!

A few plots in hand, we started performing to an audience comprising the Head Office staff as a trial run. It was interesting to see how the audience built up discussions based on the different forum theater acts – it goes to show how easy it is for them to relate these plots to their day to day life at work! On the day of performing the act for the first time it self, we, the members of the Forum Theatre group knew it was going to make a huge impact on the overall project and were proud of it!

Starting from last year to date, I have volunteered for many Forum theatre acts and have witnessed the audience relating the plots to real life scenarios and building interesting discussion to contribute to the success of the overall programme of ‘Project WAVE’. Project WAVE gives me the opportunity to take an important message to society and to the fellow colleagues and I am proud to be a part of it!