The significance of youth activism and artwork depicted in ‘GROWTHesque’

Final Saturday, the Nitery Theatre hosted the one-person theater efficiency “GROWTHesque,” the place Leeth Singhage ’26 portrayed SarongHoodie (nicknamed Shroodie), a teen in Sri Lanka rising up amidst failing authorities, hyperinflation and public protests. The viewers adopted Shroodie as he finds braveness in efficiency arts in the course of the coronavirus lockdown in 2022 and reckons with the anxieties round his homeland’s socio-political instability.

Singhage wrote “GROWTHesque,” a solo play interlaced with choreography and musical numbers, for the Edinburgh Fringe Pageant in 2022 and premiered it there. It has since been carried out on the United Solo Theater Pageant in New York Metropolis, the place Singhage was awarded “Greatest Rising Actor.” Now, as a part of the Developmental Stage of Stanford’s Asian American Theater Undertaking (AATP), the present was revitalized for Stanford audiences for the weekend.

Singhage is a global pupil from Sri Lanka. The present chronicles Singhage’s journey as an artist in highschool at a time when there have been no websites for performances. Intertwined together with his coming-of-age story was the fact of Sri Lanka’s main recession in 2022. The nation defaulted on its worldwide debt, sending the financial system into hyperinflation and triggering mass protests. With two chairs, a sarong, a hoodie and a projector display screen, Singhage captivated audiences by means of his highly effective efficiency. 

“GROWTHesque” jogs my memory that artwork has the potential to offer a brief regenerative area, as we navigate paths in direction of higher properties and societies. It may encourage us to be extra crucial about the established order and elucidate our complicity in them.

In reality, the present emerged as a response to drastic modifications that Sri Lanka underwent over the past 12 months. “I initially utilized to the Edinburgh Fringe Pageant with a special play,” mentioned Singhage. Nonetheless, throughout preparation for the present, Sri Lanka began going into an financial disaster. Singhage then realized that there “was a extra necessary story to be instructed.” 

Working intently with Nishantha de Silva, a Sri Lankan dramaturg, Singhage wrote about what was happening in Sri Lanka. “Each single week, issues modified,” mirrored Singhage. From new presidents, to exams being canceled, to days-long queues for gas amidst electrical energy cuts, he mentioned that the script was “at all times being rewritten, as a result of issues are altering on a regular basis.” The script was finalized every week earlier than the efficiency in Edinburgh.

In the beginning of the present, Shroodie is caught in all-too-familiar Zoom courses, self-learning biology A-levels as he works towards medical college to fulfill his father. He and his mates discover themselves questioning the which means of maturity and questioning whether or not they need to conform to a slender definition of success in opposition to the backdrop of the failing nation-state. 

Within the one-person present, Singhage embodied totally different characters in caricatured manners, switching his physique language, tone and accents to fill the viewers’s creativeness. One character that stood out was the painfully humorous portrait of his dad: snarky, stern and dismissive of performing. 

Equally, his portrayal of Shanaya — a neurotic, hyper-intelligent caricature of his lesbian good friend — gave the viewers a variety of context to the Sri Lankan youth’s perspective in direction of the unfolding political turmoil; each view the recession as a symptom of the crumbling democracy. She compares the then-government to a monkey, likening the failing authorities in Sri Lanka to “Planet of the Apes”

The present was extremely immersive and self-aware, as seen within the cheeky scene transitions. There was an occasion the place the viewers was teleported to Sri Lanka however remained caught there resulting from {an electrical} outage. Lighting design (Sidra Xu ’25) and the multimedia projections (Eduardo Moreno ’26) crafted a extremely energetic and compassionate ambiance for the universe of “GROWTHesque.”

“It felt like a film,” mentioned viewers member Natalie Shtangrud ’26; for her, the present’s immersive nature and viewers engagement “made 45 minutes really feel like nothing.” 

One self-referential scene noticed Shroodie speaking to totally different administrators to place collectively “GROWTHesque.” Shroodie mirrored on the stress of creating artwork that’s concurrently entertaining and demanding, in addition to the burden of visibility and representing Sri Lankan youth on a global stage (even when the present didn’t imply to).

To provide a extra correct illustration, Singhage based mostly a big portion of the present verbatim on interviews with youth and younger activists. In some methods, the present grew to become a automobile for frustrations of Sri Lankan youth.

Many emotional musical numbers within the present centered on the themes of youth, doubt and braveness. Because the footage from the Sri Lankan protests — additionally known as “Aragalaya” or “Battle” — performed within the background, Singhage delivered an emotionally charged choreography of the protest. Within the choreography, various protestors — youths, adults and members of the LGBTQ+ group — all requested for the federal government to step down. Shroodie requires the viewers to partake with chanted slogans: “Go Dwelling, Gota.”

The political reckoning of the present resonated with many audiences. Kostadin Kostadinov Hadzhiivanov ’26, a global pupil from Bulgaria, mentioned, “I noticed someone who grew up in his scenario and switch[ed] it into just a little art work, and it made me notice that you simply actually ought to care.” 

Shroodie acknowledges that the play portrays the issues of Sri Lanka in worldwide contexts, which made me query the which means of community-specific artwork when being positioned outdoors its authentic context. It jogged my memory of mates again residence in Thailand who had been out on the streets, protesting for democracy. “GROWTHesque” jogged my memory of the complicity of being overseas — away from our nationwide issues — whereas I search for a framework to result in change again residence. 

Editor’s Be aware: This text is a evaluation and contains subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.