Arts and Theatre, Colombo, Politics and Governance

In conversation with Tracy Holsinger

Tracy Holsinger is one of Sri Lanka’s most accomplished theatre personalities. That she comes from a family of musicians and dramatists is frankly incidental – Tracy’s significant theatrical talent is one honed through hard work, a commitment to professionalism and a demanding standard of acting and directing, evident in this interview.

Many of my generation grew up listening to Tracy on TNL Radio, which is why it so hard to countenance the false accents and inane blathering of radio DJs today. Tracy is recognised more for her compelling theatre than her skills as a radio DJ, though I did ask her in this interview whether she will ever go back to a career in radio. Having set up her stage company Mind Adventures in 1999, she notes that “for me, theatre has always been experimental and has to interest me. I look for alternative venues, dramatic genres and acting styles”.

Tracy and I spoke at length about the standard of English theatre in Sri Lanka today – the problems of commercialisation, the lack of alternative sponsorship, the lack of training, venues, support and interest in good theatre. Her theatre is deeply political, resonating with an appreciation that “the culture of fear, corruption and mockery of law and order that has been forced upon us by the very people who are supposed to protect morals and principles”. Exploring this further, we also talk about the role of theatre in conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Before our shoot, I asked a friend of hers – someone who has known and acted in her productions for years – to describe Tracy in a sentence. “Full of life and passion, inspires my imagination, wonderfully able to bring out the best in her actors by just being there” was the response I received.

Tracy next directs Sharman Macdonald’s After Juliet (this is Facebook link), which goes on the boards from 21 to 23 August 2009 at the Lionel Wendt. A review of Chatroom, a production of Mind Adventures directed by Tracy, was published on Groundviews in February 2007.