LEWISTON – Bates College senior Sulochana Dissanayake of Pita Kotte, Sri Lanka, will direct the theater department’s production of “A Lie of the Mind,” Sam Shepard’s realistic portrayal of two American families.

Winner of the 1986 New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play, “A Lie of the Mind” depicts two families joined by marriage and torn apart by a brutal act of domestic violence. It’s the darkly humorous story of archetypal American characters trying to piece together their lives while dealing with rage, vengeance, disillusionment and abandonment.

“The play is universal in its dysfunctionality of families,” said Dissanayake. “We all know people like that. It’s just how some families behave. The two families seem to avoid the reality of what’s happened.”

Bates’ mainstage productions are usually directed by a member of the theater faculty. Dissanayake is directing “A Lie of the Mind” as a part of her senior directing thesis. “This is very rare,” said Katalin Vecsey, theater department lecturer and vocal director for theater productions. “I’ve been here for 14 years, and this is the first time that a student has been invited by the theater department to direct a mainstage production.”

Dissanayake has acted in a show and directed several others, and has directed a short film at Bates as well. “Sulo was invited to direct the main stage because she has displayed not just imagination and intelligence, but rarer qualities like organizational skills, dependability, keen listening abilities and interpersonal warmth and care,” said Paul Kuritz, professor of theater and Dissanayake’s thesis advisor.

Shepard is an American playwright who acts and directs in many of his own plays. In 1979, his play “Buried Child” received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award.

“Lie of the Mind” has a lasting impact, said Vecsey. “It will make you think about how people live their lives.”

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1-2, in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College St. Admission is $6 general admission, $3 for senior citizens. For more information, visit www.batestickets.com or call 786-6161.

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