Backstage on Broadway: Actor draws from experience as child in Sri Lanka for latest Shakespeare in the Park play

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The search for love and the realities of war take center stage in central park.

For 54 years, Shakespeare’s iconic plays and some of the world’s best performers have enticed audiences to the Delacorte Theater.

And in this week’s Backstage on Broadway, we chat about one of the bard’s lesser known shows, but one it’s actor believe is extremely relevant .

Sanjit De Silva remembers being a child in Sri Lanka

“I grew up in a country that was torn apart by civil war,” he said.

It was a deadly ethnic conflict.

“It was like a Romeo and Juliet thing, my dad was Sinhalese and my mom was Tamil, so we had to leave the country,” he remembered.

30 years later, he’s bringing that experience to his latest role as 'Aeneas' in Troilus and Cressida.

“It’s about love and war but I think it’s also a commentary on war and we’re setting it in modern day," he explained. "I think there will be a lot of resonances with audiences with what’s going on in our society.”

It’s all part of the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park.

“We would come in the summer, line up at 7 am, and wait in line," Ismenia Mendes smiled. "It was really great!”

Ismenia Mendes remembers seeing her first show here. Now, she’s starring in her second production, as the title character.

“Cressida, she’s a very modern woman, I think,” she described. “She doesn’t really have any social standing and that really gives me freedom to be lewd, to be difficult and strange.”

They spend days prepping under some grueling conditions.

“It’s an experience because you’re not just dealing with the regular rigorous aspect of tech but you’re dealing with mosquitoes and the blazing hot sun,” she said.

And, oh that sure brings them closer together!

“it’s very bonding when all of you smell awful and all of you look awful,” Mendes laughed.

But the message is what Sanjit hopes his son takes away as he gives him a glimpse at what he experienced in real life.

“At 9 years old, I remember being driven through gunfire in a UN escort so I think it’s important kids know the reality of the world we live in,” De Silva said.

The show is running through august 14th. Just a reminder, the tickets are completely free.

The Public Theater does have a digital lottery, otherwise it's first come-first served.

 

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi