The room fell silent as Isuri Wijesundara, the assistant director of "Now You See Me Now You Hear Me", stepped on the stage of the Performing Arts Center at Adelphi University. Clad in dark pants and a poncho, Wijesundara painted the scene of a dark night at Stanford University.
“On January 18, 2015, around 1:00 A.M. two male Stanford University graduate students spotted a male on top of an unconscious, partially naked female behind a dumpster near a fraternity house.”
Wijesundara's voice encapsulated every square inch of the silent room. She did not stutter, and spoke with the utmost eloquence, as she continued to tell the story and introduce Now You See Me, Now You Hear Me(NYSM/NYHM).
“There are survivors all around us dealing with the same of their assault, this is for you.”
In October, along with Maggie Lally, an associate professor of Theater at Adelphi University, Wijesundara directed a campus-wide initiative to end gendered violence.
In response to the release of Brock Turner, who was found guilty of rape at Stanford, the event featured 99 Adelphi students and faculty who read aloud the letter from the victim to Turner, and Vice President Joe Biden’s response.
NYSM/NYSM, part of a campus-wide initiative to end gendered violence, has only been one of Wijesundara's successes as a theater major and activist at Adelphi University.
“There is so much happening around us that we are not the slightest bit aware of”
Wijesundara is breaking stereotypes and redefining societal norms while simultaneously advocating for social justice and pursuing a career in acting and performing arts.
A junior in college, Wijesundara has already held various leadership and career positions in like a Young Professional for TEDXBroadway, a social media assistant coordinator for Adelphi University, a United Nations Association representative for the 60th session of the Commission on the status of women, Social media marketing intern at New York Innovative Theatre Foundation and a Box Office Intern at The Brick Theater.
Wijesundara was also an intern at Music and Memory, a non-profit organization that uses personalized music to improve the lives and cognitive function of the elderly.
“Isuri always struck me as incredibly determined and genuinely interested in the world” says Peter DeBartolo, theAdministrative Director of the Levermore Global Scholars (LGS) program who worked with Wijesundara to represent Adelphi and LGS at the United Nations in January. “She has an impressive tenacity to overcome challenges and a sincere passion to make the world a better place.”
Growing up in Sri Lanka, Wijesundara always knew she had a passion for the arts but pursued biology and science because they would bring her to a career in engineering or medicine which was valued at a greater level than a career in the arts there. Once her parents realized how strong her passion, and talent, for the arts was she began taking classes like violin, ballet, piano and acting.
After receiving her Associate's diploma from Trinity College London in Speech and Drama, and Musical Theatre, Wijesundara moved to Garden City to pursue a bachelors of performing arts degree in what she is most passionate about:acting.
Auditioning in front of Nick Petron, the chairman of the Department of Theater and the creator of the Bachelors of Fine Arts program at Adelphi University was the first step in her journey. “She was so well prepared for her audition, I was floored” says Petron, “now she keeps stepping it up.”
Currently, Wijesundara performs at the Beverly Bonner Show at the Broadway Comedy Club and has dreams of getting a masters degree in Drama Therapy and to represent more actors of Asian descent on Broadway and in film.
Not only is Wijesundara a talented performer, but she is also an activist.
A few months ago for a film which was shown to the entire class of 2020 during their matriculation on diversity and the Black Lives Matter movement, Wijesundara discussed her journey with her own race and identity.
“Sri Lankan. That’s what I am... I never had to think twice of who i'm associated with in terms of race and skin color until i moved to america”(16:55) says Isuri in her monologue, “Back home, I was a Sri Lankan girl both a Buddhist and a Catholic but when I moved to America I became a Brown, South Asian girl who's most likely to be from india and is probably a muslim or a hindu…. The significant difference is that I’m now attached to labels and stereotypes I ever had to think of before and I resent it.”
“I think the world of her, I think she's quite brilliant and she's going places” says Lally, “as she's developing her craft she’s going to have more tools to use with that voice of hers that is eloquent and heartfelt.”