Mrs. Somalatha Subasinghe who has made outstanding contributions to the development of children’s and youth theatre in Sri Lanka since late 1970s passed away on 30th May 2015. She started her career as a graduate teacher and held several positions in committees that initiated aesthetics and Drama and Theatre in the primary and secondary school curriculum since 1962. Until her demise, she held the position of the founding Director of Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Foundation (LCYTF) Kotte and the President, ASSITEJ Sri Lanka centre.
Mrs. Somalatha Subasinghe is highly regarded as one of the first female stage artists for breaking new ground in Drama and Theatre in Sri Lanka in 1960s at a time when women hardly chose arts. She was highly acclaimed for her artistic performances as a screen actress too. Her outstanding performances on screen and on stage have been awarded on many occasions.
Mrs. Subasinghe in the later years dedicated herself to the cause of children’s and youth theatre. She initiated Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Organisation in 1981 to promote in particular the theatre for children and youth in Sri Lanka. The institution is the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka which produces plays for children with professional actors. The institution today is the leading producer of mainly musical theatre for children and youth and one of the major training centres for young artistes in Sri Lanka. She has written and directed a number of plays for children creating a new wave in children’s and youth theatre in Sri Lanka. Some of them have received international recognition and performed in a number of international children’s theatre festivals in Europe and Asia. Six of her plays for children are in print. The youth play ‘Vikurthi’ (Distortion) on the education system of Sri Lanka which she wrote and directed in 1982 is acclaimed as a landmark of the modern Sinhala Theatre in Sri Lanka. She has also directed a number of main stream plays. Many of them have won national awards.
She has also brought fame to Sri Lanka by representing the country at a number of international conferences on theatre for children and youth. She was the Sri Lankan representative at the first ever Women’s Playwright Conference held in New York in 1988. She continued to represent Sri Lanka in Women’s Playwright Conferences thereafter.
In recognition of her contribution to the theatre at large, she was bestowed honorary titles by the Presidents of Sri Lanka. LCYTF which was founded by Mrs. Subasinghe received the Bunka Award in 1997 (from the embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka) in recognition of the contribution made to children’s and youth theatre. Further the Sarvodya Movement (a foremost charity organisation in Sri Lanka) awarded her efforts by recognizing her as one of the outstanding personalities in the year 2006. In addition, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage also have recognized her contribution to the development of theatre in Sri Lanka on a number of occasions. In 2013 the University of the Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, Sri Lanka bestowed her honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) for her outstanding contribution to theatre arts. Her career in theatre spans for about fifty-five years.