Our street drama, by all possible measures, was a stunning success. We had a crowd of three thousand people watching and representatives of the Foundation’s core staff also received many verbal congratulations afterwards. The Ponnivala story serves as a keystone for the foundation’s outreach work and we were thrilled to bring it to Toronto’s huge Tamil diaspora population. The Sophia Hilton Foundation also demonstrated its presence by having a show booth where many visitors dropped by to thumb through graphic novels and watch our 26 animated story episodes on a video screen that we ran on batteries hidden under our main table! Much interest was expressed by visitors in how this amazing story is now beginning to be used and taught, in Canada. We hope to be able to provide a repeat performance next year and also to sponsor some special school visits in the area, in the months to come.
Live Performance of The Legend of Ponnivala at Tamil Festival, Toronto
On Saturday, August 29th 2015 the first “street drama” performance ever to showcase the Legend of Ponnivala story, outside of India (and perhaps Sri Lanka), took place right in the middle of a major street in Toronto, Canada! The whole area of Morningside Avenue between Neilson and Finch was closed to vehicular traffic for the 1st Tamil Street Festival to be hosted in the Western world. Organizers were hopeful they might get a crowd of 30,000. To their surprise, 90,000 people showed up! Right in the middle of all this was a performance of a half hour musical play featuring the Ponnivala legend! Singer-musician-script writer Ramanee (Shanugam Ramaneekaran) and his talented folk troupe deserve full credit for this creative show. And their presentation was revolutionary in a second sense as well: The key male hero (Shankar) was played by a female actor… Ramanee’s own daughter Tharsi! It is common for men to take on female roles in Tamil folk drama tradition, but the reverse is highly, highly unusual. This was a pleasing sign of the exciting modern transformation Tamil folk culture is now enjoying in its new, Canadian context. The Sophia Hilton Foundation is pleased to be playing a role in this evolution.