An Ode in Memory of Ashley Halpe

Jean Arasanayagam: marking Prof. Halpe’s birth anniversary which fell on the 18th of November 2018


Recalling our youthful days as students at the University of Peradeniya, sharing our interests in drama and theatre, music, painting and literature.

The Audition

I await the raising of that curtain to reveal the unfolding

of my carefully contrived drama with its structured

plot unfolding in scene after scene in that progression,

sequential in Act after Act ending in the stunning

shock of denouément and climactic finalé yet so

alien to the true enactments and stark realities of life.

I hold the script in my hands, page after page but where

are the players to mount the stage awaiting my direction

in my imagined playwright role?

Yes, where are they?

I look around me but not a single figure presses close,

those eager acolytes stepping out of a mundane

existence to feel the excitation of assuming alter egos,

no one came forward to be auditioned,

where, where are they, the chosen ones whose voices will

echo and re-echo on the stage, hear the applause

that will sound spontaneously and with praise for

their performance, yes, for their unborn as yet untried

talents, the world is still to witness, crowd the theatre,

wait for the curtain to arise, enter that world.

Now that I think of it, the original script must

Change, adding amendments, clarification moving on

from those first idyllic illusory views of our

lives and times, the roles explore the greater

complexities, the new exposés not merely of those

halcyon days, romantic meanderings, the rendition

of those alien traditions and ways of life,

the linguistics, the plot, the themes, the contemporaneity

that bore significance to our once novice imaginations

our fallow minds, no, there is no finalé to this

play, no mimic entendres, no climactic stark, stunning

revelations, no melodrama only that extension that

leads the audience on as the plot progresses

veering between the well-contrived interplay between

tragedy and comedy in the alternation of dramatic roles

and character metamorphosis and transformation.

My script has changed from its first naïve beginnings,

yet I must now seek new players to fit new roles,

I cannot go in search of that youthful coterie of

players whom I rubbed shoulders with as we

trod the Primrose Path of that theatrical novitiate,

those familiar figures enacting our own personal

unscripted dramas, episode after episode each

player assuming the role assigned to play a

part that they imagine will entrance and grip their

visible or invisible audience that awaits each

stellar performance,

The script perhaps will find new players who will

interpret the roles assigned to the them now that

the plot, the themes have new insights with

a changed view of the world far removed from

the canonical dramatic works of the old world writers.

My script has changed through all these long years,

I need to find new players, new characters to fit

changed roles, the old familiar and the known

are no longer there, their voices silenced by time,

by age, by death, the stage empty,

deserted, the hall, the pit a vast echoless space.

We staged, in that past, enactment after personal

enactment in our personal dramatic life-

sequences, remember how our rehearsals took

place anywhere at any time in those carefree

days, inserting our own words, our own speech

as each scene took shape, and the plot thickened,

the climactic moment reached with its

dramatic finalé,

river banks, mountain tops, solitary cul-

de-sacs, secret enclaves, summer houses in that

Ornamental Park in our idyllic landscapes

of Academia in that forgotten century were

our venues, scraps of conversation, impromptu

utterance, desultory conversations formed our

unwritten dramas, compounded of romantic,

unreal dreams and illusions.

Sometimes our rehearsals were intimate

enactments of our private, personal assignations,

clutched in our hands were those classical

plays of Oedipus Rex and Antigone, Macbeth

or Hamlet, plays in translation or plays in

Elizabethan idiom, we were to later discover that

our passions tallied with those protagonists

that we too underwent those selfsame passions,

loves, hates, betrayals, disillusion, loss and agony

of unreciprocated emotions, left foundering,

stumbling in desert or wilderness, confused,

perplexed, those pillars still stand in the amphitheatre of

our own performances for which no applause or

standing ovations resounded from that invisible

audience, in that outdoor stage, our Colosseum,

our individual Globe Theatre.

The pages of my script flutter and fall from my

hands, page after page carried by a chance

waft of wind but the words remain

ingrained in my mind and the players I

have known, are still alive, their voices

still reverberating with all their youth and

passion, that utterance still remembered,

never to be forgotten.

Peradeniya 1950 and after

………………………………….Jean Arasanayagam


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One response to “An Ode in Memory of Ashley Halpe

  1. Pingback: In Appreciation of Ashley Halpe: A Man for All Seasons | Thuppahi's Blog

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