Sri Lankan star wins Veronica Kelly Prize (Issue 15, 2011)


Amphitheatre The Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) awarded La Trobe University student Saumya Liyanage the A$400 prize for his paper, ‘My body taught me how to act – towards an epistemology of actor learning and apprenticeship.’ Saumya is a well known actor in his home country, having spent over two decades in the film, theatre and television industry in Sri Lanka.

Saumya’s paper was awarded the best paper presented – the Veronica Kelly Prize – at ADSA’s annual conference earlier this month. Along with the monetary award, Saumya’s paper will be published in the Australasian Drama Studies, a peer reviewed A-rated journal by the Australian Research Council.

Saumya has spent the last five years between Australia and Sri Lanka, first completing his Masters and then returning to Sri Lanka as a lecturer at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo. He returned to Australia in 2010, where he is completing his PhD proposal at La Trobe University’s Melbourne campus.

Saumya’s PhD research, under the guidance of Dr Rob Conkie, a La Trobe University lecturer in Theatre and Drama, is focusing on actors’ work, training and learning processes. His ADSA prize winning paper explores the phenomenon of embodied knowledge and how Sri Lankan actors learn their skills through on-the-job training.

‘I was not alone in Sri Lanka, a whole generation of actors are self-taught, learning their craft on the job with no formal training,’ says Saumya.

‘This phenomenon has attracted me to explain how I developed my skills in the industry and explore the concept of the actor’s body being in the enactment as a knowing process.’